We live in an individualistic age. This seems to be particularly apparent in the London area. Travelling on the Tube you are immediately aware how people, although close together, want to maintain their own personal space. However, as Christians, we are not called to individualism rather we are called to live out our faith “in community” together. One way which assists us in making this community experience a real experience is that of hospitality. Peter urges the dispersed Christians to offer hospitality to one another without grumbling (1 Pet. 4:9). Paul indicates in Romans 12:13 that we minister to the needs of each other, to share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality. Hospitality is therefore an essential part of Christian living.
But what is hospitality? Literally the word, as used in the two afore-mentioned references, refers to the love of strangers. We are welcoming those who are normally outside our circle. So as families we can welcome people into our homes for a meal, a coffee or just some time to relax. The world is a hostile environment for spiritual people and many need “cities of refuge” to which they can resort in order to be refreshed. This is particularly so for those who live on their own. We should be looking out for those in need in the church and offering them hospitality. Gaius in 3 John 2-8 gives a great example of someone who is commended for his determination to welcome Christian strangers who are in need.
In welcoming people into our homes, we need to remember that this should be done with the right attitude. Hospitality can curiously become a cloak for selfishness. This happens when we invite those who are able to invite us back. Our LORD uses these words: Then Jesus said to his host, “when you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors, if you do they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:12-14).
The promise of blessing is also before us in Hebrews 13:2 where we are told that we may even entertain angels unaware by the giving of hospitality. This takes us back to Genesis 18:1-15 where Abraham and Sarah actually entertained the LORD Jesus Himself in His pre-incarnate state. As Christians we give because we love, not because we expect to receive back. The Lord graciously promises to bless if we give hospitality in the proper way, but we do not open our homes purely from the motive of getting that blessing.
As we think about who we invite we must remember that we should never be partial. Some Christians operate in a way so that they will only invite people whom they are friendly with. This is essentially selfish and can be divisive. We must remember that our God shows no partiality and so we must not show partiality. This becomes particularly heinous when we exclude people on the grounds of their jobs, their homes or perhaps worse of all their colour of skin. This should never be among the people of God.
You may feel that all this is well and good, but you are not able to give hospitality because you are too poor or because you do not have enough space in your home. In reply we might say that “where there is a will there is a way”. Remember, you do not have to provide a feast for your guests; the warm welcome and time together is more important. Solomon gives us some perspective when he says better is a dry crust with peace and quiet, than a house full of feasting with strife (Prov. 17:1). Perhaps if space is a problem you can take others out for a meal.
We must remember,as well, that we are not in a competition as to who can provide the most outstanding and elaborate hospitality. We are not to think about out-doing such-and-such a person because we provide a bigger range of puddings or whatever. Also, we should never act in such a way that others are intimidated as regards to their own offering of hospitality. This happens when others feel that they cannot cook as well as someone else in the church and therefore they do not open their homes to others. We should see to avoid this.
If we are the receivers of hospitality we should make sure that we receive such kindness in a godly way. Our LORD mentioned that we should be humble guests. He said: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honour, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, “Give this person your seat.” Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, “Friend move up to a better place. Then you will be honoured in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:8-11)
Not only though should we be humble, but we should also be thankful. When we have received from one another, in what ever way, it is good and right to be thankful. Paul enjoins thankfulness in Col. 3:15, In the context of building oneness among believers, when he says: and let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
So hospitality is part of making sure there is a growing oneness among us. By opening our homes to one another we get to know one another. That is why an elder must be given to hospitality (see 1 Tim.3:2) because it is a key way in which he can get to know the people of the church.
Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter February 2011