The Christian Grace of Hospitality
The command to be Hospitable
At least three times, the New Testament commands believers - urges, exhorts them - to show hospitality.
Here they are.....
"Practise hospitality." Romans 12:13
"Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2
"Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling." 1 Peter 4:9
So all redeemed followers of Jesus ought to practise the grace of hospitality. Elders are expected to show hospitality - before a man is appointed as an elder he must have a good track record of showing hospitality (e.g. Titus 1:8). We should ask around the church "Is this man hospitable?" "Does he often invite strangers into his home?" Only when the answer is yes, do we appoint him.
The definition of hospitality
The Greek word behind "hospitality" means show kindness to strangers (philo-zenos, kindness to strangers). Hospitality is not inviting friends for a meal. It is not inviting my family members for a meal. It is deliberately seeking out the outcast, the lonely, the odd, the new, the difficult and inviting them in. It is being obedient to Jesus' invitation list:
"But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind..."Luke 14:13
In other words, hospitality has a sacrificial edge to it. The people we are called to invite back to our homes may never invite us back and at the end of the hospitality day we may be exhausted. But with the grace and power of God, we will also be singularly blessed.
Excuses for not showing hospitality
As a pastor for many years I have heard them all, here they go, and they are all - if you want it plain - pathetic:
"My marriage / family life is rubbish so I wouldn't want it exposed." This excuse is never spoken out of course. The solution is to use the command to show hospitality to put things right in your marriage and family life.
"My wife/husband is unconverted." This is the only excuse with some weight. An unbelieving spouse may not want believers in the home, but you could try.
"We just cater for just me and me wife on a Sunday." It's called planning, just plan to cater next week for 4 people.
"I am too busy with the family and kids." And? Add a potato to the pot and you would be surprised what a joy it is to have someone new and different around the house - they may entertain the kids too.
"My food is too plain." You're not inviting people to a Bake Off, you're inviting them to a home, don't do anything different from any other time, swallow your pride and dish out simple easy to cook food. It's the people that count, not the grub.
"I live on my own." Even more reason to invite some people around. It will help you cure the disease of me-ism as you care for others. I know of a student who lived in a one-room bedsit and had a twin plate Baby Belling barely-a-cooker and yet showed hospitality - often.
"I have to have the relatives around." Find another time to show hospitality. Tell the relatives they are on their own this Sunday or that others are joining the family. Family members aren't our bosses, Christ is.
"I am a poor host." What has that got to do with the command? Become a better one - by practising hospitality! Jesus does not say "Show hospitality if you're a good host, but you don't need to if you're a poor one." Just as he does not say, "Don't steal as a general rule, but if you are poor in the honest department, well go ahead and nick stuff."Get better at not stealing stuff, and get better at showing hospitality.
The blunt truth of the matter is that there are no legitimate excuses for not showing hospitality...
...the benefits of showing hospitality
I can always tell believers and individuals who never invite people into their homes. They have no mirrors external to the family/individual. Their family / individual habits and customs are rather odd and strange. Inviting folk into our homes opens up our lives to the inspection - and the possibility of challenge and change. It's hard to own ten 50" flat screen TVs or seven PS4s if I am inviting people into my home every week. The regular presence of strangers will challenge my household practises and possibly my household greed.
Hospitality cures the dreaded disease of "me-ism", the disease which puts us at the centre of every universe and persuades us that we / our incy wincy family is what matters most. When we invite folk into our homes and for a season focus around their needs and sorrows and joys, it puts our lives into holy perspective.
Hospitality opens the door to remarkable invitees, that's my third blessing. Abraham, one day, all instinctively and naturally, invited three strangers to eat with him. My he put on a meal! One of the visitors turned out to be the Lord God himself in human form. Obedience, you see, is always rewarded richly by the Lord. He is no man's debtor.
My parents' home was a railway station for waifs and strays. The lonely, crippled, stranger, weird and empty were all invited in. One day a man came to stay the weekend. For some holy reason he took a real kind interest in a scraggy teenager living in the home at that time. He challenged that young teenager not to waste his time, and not to waste his life. This was a life-changing event. I know, because that teenager was me. I have no idea who this man was, I have never seen him since. But one day on the golden shore I want to thank him. And I want to thank my parents for obeying the law of Christ, which includes loving the outsider.
All this blessing to their children, because my parents took seriously the command to show hospitality, and I challenge my readers too.
This post is taken from our Pastor Roy Summers’ blog, where he discusses and comments on a wide range of current subjects and issues both in the world and in the church.