On Welcoming Visitors

I haven’t rolled (sparred) with knowledgable adults since before the new year.  This right away means two things: my cardio is off and my timing is off.  Jiu-jitsu is not a seasonal sport; you must practice all the time.  So when a friend invited me to his school I said sure.

As a black belt judoka I have trained at lots of judo schools.  When one arrives at a judo club, especially as a black belt, one is received well and as a friend.  There is no assumption that you are there with something to prove.  No one sizes you up.  No one questions your rank.  You are welcomed as a guest, and sometimes even asked to teach something during the class.  It is expected that you have something to contribute.

As a black belt BJJ player I have never trained anywhere except for my home school (and on two occasions two other Gracie Barra schools for a single session).  When I arrived at my friend’s school, as a black belt, people said hello, but with a particular look in their eye.  Everyone assumed I had something to prove.  Everyone was sizing me up.  Everyone questioned my rank.  I was welcomed, but I was not allowed “in.”  It was obvious that I was an outsider.  To be sure, no one was rude.  In my mind I could hear people saying, “Who is this guy?  Why does this American have a black belt?”  The class went well.  I got to roll with a couple of blue belts, a purple belt, a brown belt and the head instructor (a 2 or 3 stripe black belt).  I held my own with all of them, except for the head instructor.  He pretty much mopped the mat with me, in a very polite fashion.

Upon reflection I thought about how we as individuals treat visitors and how churches, my own in particular, treat visitors.  I wondered if I am more of a judo-culture host or a BJJ-culture host.  Do I welcome guests as they are?  Do I assume that every guests has something to contribute?  Do I honor them for no other reason than that they are guests?  Or, do allow guests in, but cast a wandering eye?  Do I size them up as if they are my competition instead of a friend?  While I love both arts, Judo and Jiu-Jitsu, I much prefer the judo-culture.  That’s the kind of life I want to live and the kind of church I want to lead.

(By the way, thanks for the roll down in San Diego!)

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