Over the years, I have seen many become Christians who have been attracted to the Lord Jesus through the practical sharing and open homes of committed believers. It was not the clever sermons nor the soundness of biblical doctrine which convinced them that Christianity was true. Of course, these things had their place; but it was the kind friendship, the warm dinner, the cup of coffee or tea and the sincere personal conversations, which made them realize this: “These Christians are for real. This is not empty philosophy nor religious theory, but a living faith in a real Christ.”
And if we think back on our own Christian lives, what is it that has kept us going when doubts and discouragements came our way? While clear messages and good Bible teaching are indispensable for a solid Christian life, isn’t it true that in most cases, what really helped and inspired us was the practical warmth and friendship of another Christian?
Have you ever wondered why “hospitality” sounds like “hospital”? The fact is that both terms are derived from the same Latin word for hospital, which is closely related to our English word “host.” Hospitals welcome people who come to rest, recover, be helped and cured. In a similar way, hosts show hospitality to help others rest, recover and be encouraged. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “hospitality” as “friendly and generous reception of guests or strangers.” Is this something God wants us to do? Who’s supposed to do it? What’s the point of hospitality?
I suppose the most important reason is because God says so: “Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers … And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Heb. 13:1-2,16 niv). Here we see that showing hospitality by sharing with others is like presenting a sacrifice to God. Do we want to worship God in a practical way? Here’s how we can do so!
Another reason for doing so is that God promises to reward those who show hospitality. Even giving a cup of water for Jesus’ sake will have its reward in heaven! (Mt. 10:42). How much more a cup of tea, or a meal! The truth is that the only way we can store up treasures in heaven is by investing our lives in others, by showing love to those around us in practical ways. Everything else will rot and be left behind!
A third reason for growing in hospitality, is that it is an indispensable requirement for Christian maturity! One of the conditions for being an elder is that “he must be hospitable” (Ti. 1:8). And one of the characteristics which define a mature woman of God is that that she “is well known for her good deeds such as … showing hospitality, washing the feet of saints, helping those in trouble” (1 Tim. 5:10). Perhaps today we would not actually wash someone’s feet, but I’m sure there are many other ways in which we can behave like servants, willing to do menial chores to help others feel at home. So whether we are male or female, if we want to mature as believers, we had better start being hospitable!
Those of us who are married and have our own homes, have a special opportunity to be hospitable to other families, to children, to young people – in fact, to everybody! Let’s not fall into the trap of becoming self-centered in our family lives; instead, let’s open our homes to others. We can show hospitality to fellow Christians, non-Christian neighbors, co-workers, friends of our children and their families. Let’s be daring and adventurous in showing hospitality!
The Bible makes it very clear that we should not welcome into our homes false teachers, who come with the express desire to preach their ideas and doctrines: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching (of Christ), do not take him into your house or welcome him” (2 Jn. 1:10). Neither should we welcome rebellious believers who are openly living a sinful life in defiance of God and the Church. This is different from the case of a non-Christian: “I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother (a Christian) but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat” (1 Cor. 5:9-11).
Those who are single will need to be careful about how they show hospitality to members of the opposite sex, to avoid it being misunderstood, or becoming a trap due to their own weakness. In any case, we should be careful “to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men” (2 Cor. 8:21). On the other hand, singleness frees up lots of time and energy which can be devoted to showing hospitality. Perhaps it would be wise to ensure that when you invite someone of the opposite sex you invite others as well so there will be a group of you. This will help to avoid the uncomfortable situation mentioned above.
Let us not forget that it is also possible to “show hospitality” by visiting other people’s homes! We can help them with household chores, bring them a hot meal, baby-sit for them, help with the garden work, fix a leaking water tap, etc, etc. There are more possibilities than can fit in this paper of people we can visit and ways we can be hospitable!
There are many ways in which we can show true hospitality to others. A few practical ideas have already been mentioned. But here are some key suggestions which are important to remember:
We can share food and drink. The early Christians “broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46). From a small cup of juice to a full meal or anything in between, the experience of sharing food with someone has always drawn human beings close together. It is a practical way of showing Christ’s love.
We can encourage fellow Christians to serve the Lord better, to attend church meetings more faithfully, to help them find a specific ministry suited to the gifts and abilities God has given them. “Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24).
We can take time to pray together, for one another and for the known needs of other friends and relatives. Take time to ask your guest what specific needs or problems they are facing, and then actually “pray for each other” (Jas. 5:13-16).
We can share real help in practical areas. “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (Rom. 12:13). Let’s be creative in identifying needs that others have, which we can help meet by sharing our time and resources. Full-time homemakers have a unique opportunity to combine taking care of the needs of their own families with sharing and helping others through hospitality and visitation. Perhaps that is one of the very reasons the evil one wants to discredit the concept of homemaking in the western world: because he realizes how effective and indispensable this role is to the growth and stability of Christian families and the Church!
One of the dangers involved in exercising hospitality is gossip! It’s a very old problem, for even the apostle Paul warned against those believers who got “into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house … gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to” (1 Tim. 5:13). Let’s ask the Lord to keep watch over our tongues, that the things we talk about would truly encourage those to whom we show hospitality.
Another danger is that of forming a circle of friendship which, in practice, excludes others. Or perhaps we only show hospitality to those from whom we expect favors in return. Jesus warned us against that sort of greedy hospitality (Mt. 5:42-48, Lk. 14:12-14).
Finally, let’s avoid the popularity trap of becoming “celebrity headhunters.” Let’s not just invite over for dinner the popular preachers or the special visitors. Let’s show hospitality to all who need it. In fact, let’s make a point of befriending those who are humanly less attractive to us, and so show the same attitude God showed us through the Lord Jesus.
So let’s take the initiative in showing hospitality. Let’s stop complaining that “nobody ever invites me out.” Instead, let’s make a point of inviting others to our home, and of visiting others who need encouragement. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), and the same is true in the area of hospitality. Those who have practiced hospitality know that this is one of the main ways in which God gives us fulfillment in our Christian life. It is true that the more one gives, the more one receives. Try hospitality and see how much your life is enriched!
I challenge you to take your calendar right now, and make concrete plans to show hospitality to someone this week. Don’t let this exhortation become just an “interesting idea” that you’ll “think about” some time. Instead, prayerfully commit to inviting someone over each week. Pray beforehand, and follow up with prayer. You will be surprised at how exciting and interesting your life will become! You will experience more laughter and more tears. You will experience “life, and have it to the full,” just as Jesus offered (Jn. 10:10). You will know the ups and downs, the joys and frustrations which are the signs of real life. And you will rejoice as you see God using you in special ways.
By Andrew Nunn
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA.