Manaakitanga: An Invitation

The Māori dictionary describes Manaakitanga (noun)  as 'hospitality, kindness, support - the process of showing respect, generosity and care for others.'

'The greater hidden meaning of this word as a verb is understood as, 'the response we give when we understand what it means to surrender our time and space to people and beings that enter our world’.

Just recently I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of interesting interactions that have come across my path, drawing me into conversations that have initiated the spirit of manaakitanga. It seems that I don’t have to be intentionally deliberate in my evangelistic kindness, thinking that I am being a good “Christian” but rather by living more aware of my environment I will pick up on the presence of something special that is about to happen, which I think is a more genuine way to live in the world anyway.

‘You don’t have to be go out of your way to do Manaakitanga, it goes out of its way to find you and invite you into a new way of being'

Last week a local cafe owner quite randomly let me know that he had taken the liberty to find out my name and look me up on the internet, due to a humorous jibe I sent in his direction one day. Sometimes the insults of endearment are an invitation into the heart of a new relationship. He found an old sermon from a few years back, which always makes me cringe as you never know how people will cope with your views especially if you are unsure you believe the same stuff anymore (?!?)

Long story short, we both felt like something was inviting us into a space that had the potential for mutual benefit. The jury is still out...

In the latter part of the gospel of Matthew, Jesus is recorded as expounding on the future with evocative ideas about the signs of his ‘second coming’ and a kind of end of days sort out. We have tended to read this very literally and yet suffer intensely from a protracted disappointment  around the timing of such events. My view is that Jesus is trying to say that in the end this is what really matters and it would do us well to pay attention to the signs and let them guard our lives.

In Chapter 25 he tells three stories that highlight the juxtaposition of our lives as a contradiction and paradox that will need some concentrated effort and attention if we are to cope in the days to come;

  • The virgins who represent the wisdom and foolishness of the human condition when it comes to intimacy, and how we need to be constantly vigilant, in between naps, when it comes to keeping our passions managed.
  • The bags of Gold which were a reminder that we need to use what we have been given and make the effort to invest well if we are to make the most of our lives.
  • The sheep and the goats; the most stark reminder of our humane and inhumane potential. I am not just a sheep because I follow a particular religious affiliation but I am a sheep because I pay attention to the manaakitanga that opens its door to me, inviting me into an opportunity to be a part of a ‘second coming of Jesus’ to others.  

The goat in me, my shadow self, my devil (adversary, accuser),  is often too busy trying to butt heads with everything that is around me, which quite ironically is why I often find myself caught up in critical assessments and accusatory comments regarding those I can easily try to avoid, those who make my life uncomfortable and inconvenienced. E.g: the needy, sick, incarcerated, and stranger.

That 'Caprine' (domestic goat) part of me needs to face the judgement of rehabilitation if I am to really going to enjoy the eternal life that is on offer.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’   - Matthew 25:35-40

Jesus’ words here remind us about what it means to be ambassadors for the 'kingdom of heaven’ ( a divine state of consciousness) that seeks to be revealed through the spirit of manaakitanga.

‘You are as big as what you love and as small as what you allow to annoy you’

The eternal way of living is big love and the eternal way of punishment (in need of rehabilitation) is that side of my nature that is entrenched in annoyance. What I allow to annoy me will  forever torment my sensibilities and firmly close the door to the spirit of Christ that knocks with the sound of Manaakitanga.

An old Māori proverb (whakatauki) says:

He tangata ta-kahi manuhiri, he marae puehu    -    A person who mistreats his guest has a dusty Marae

When someone comes to our door and we refuse to open our hands, hearts and homes to the kingdom of heaven we end up living a very lonely life, far removed from the one we deserve.

In the end this is what really matters….’manaakitanga'

Greg Burson