Summer winds down. Vacations end. School and work schedules restart their engines, and we all prepare to hustle our way to the 2022 finish line. As we get back into our normal routines, we must not neglect the routine of hospitality. God repeatedly calls us to open our lives up as gifts to others:
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Gal. 6:10)
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (Heb. 13:2)
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, (Acts 2:46)
Alongside the clear and continual commands to show hospitality, God has also placed us in a church with plenty of opportunities. Like many churches, we have members who struggle with illnesses and old age. Some live far from their families. We also enjoy a constant stream of visitors to our church and neighbors who recently moved to the area. On top of all that, we are to show hospitality to all our brothers and sisters in Christ.
God has chosen these people to walk alongside us in this life. Our church ought to be characterized by members making meals for the sick, inviting guests out for a coffee, and hosting dinners and parties. Our unbelieving neighbors ought to know our church as “those people who are always giving of themselves.” We have commands to show hospitality and we have a target-rich environment of people to whom we can show hospitality. But this doesn’t mean hospitality is always easy. What are the sticky sins and snares to pursuing biblical hospitality?
First, Christian hospitality must be surrendered to Jesus as a gift to his sheep. What do I mean? Hosting a dinner party is not a public exhibition of your sterling manners, your immaculate housekeeping skills, or your aptitude with the oven. All of those may be present at the dinner party, but they are only done as gifts to the guests, not as a way of tooting your own horn. Cleaning the home ought to be a gift you are giving to the guest, not yourself. Preparing a complex meal is done as a sacrifice of love of neighbor, not love of self. And you know your motivations are honoring Christ by your response to a lack of thanks for the hospitality. If you grumble, you’re doing it wrong. (1 Pet. 4:9) We don’t show hospitality in order to receive the praise of men. (Prov. 27:2, John 12:43)
Second, Christian hospitality must be done with thanksgiving. God has blessed some of his children with culinary skills that rival Michelin-rated chefs, to others he has given the ability to make spaghetti off the side of the noodle box. We are to take whatever God has given us and offer it back with thanksgiving. Comparison is the archenemy of hospitality. In the parable of the sower we see that the good seed produced, some thirtyfold, some sixtyfold, and some one hundred. (Mark 4:1-9) Good seed, planted in good soil, produces fruit. God alone is responsible for the amount of fruit. So, take what God has given you and make it more glorious with thanksgiving.
Third, hospitality must be impartial. We are to welcome others as Christ welcomed us. (Rom. 15:5-7) Christ didn’t play favorites. Rather, people marveled at his willingness to eat with social outsiders. As we frequently sing, “He welcomes the weakest, the vilest, the poor.” God chooses the poor of this world to be rich (James 2:5), he takes the poor from the ash heap and seats them with princes. (Ps. 113:7) Our culture claims to value diversity, but it only values a particular kind of diversity. Look at any major corporations hiring procedures and you will see clear lines drawn between those who are acceptable and those who are untouchable.
The church must show a better way. As we come to Christ we are all being built together into a house he intends to inhabit. (1 Pet. 2:4-5)
Lastly, Christian hospitality is a duty we ought to desire. It’s not optional. It’s not extra credit. We are to always be eager to show hospitality (Rom. 12:13) We were made new in Christ for good works which God prepared for us (Eph. 2:10) When Christ returns and judges the living and the dead, all of his judgment will focus on whether or not we showed hospitality:
37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them,‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matt. 25:37-40)
We are justified by faith in Christ alone. We aren’t saved by hospitality. We are saved for it. Church, as God gives you the ability, open up your life to church members. Open up your home. Open up your pantry. Let’s make loads of meals for the sick. Let’s host baby and wedding showers. Let’s embrace the regular breaking of bread in our homes with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We aren’t a group of individuals who happen to confess similar beliefs. We are a family. Christ is our head. He’s shown us immense hospitality. Let’s follow his footsteps.