By Stacie Gibson
The autumn season can be a busy time of year for all of us. Our kids go back to school, fall sports start up, Sunday football, men gear up for hunting, and we finally get back into a routine after summer break. Routine and activities are very good, but sometimes we leave out something important: other people. The art of serving others in our home I am afraid has become a lost virtue in the American church. Neglecting to show hospitality comes down to a matter of the heart. If we say we love God, but do not love His people and the lost, this says something about us and our character.
What is hospitality?
The New Testament word for “hospitality” (Greek Philozenia) comes from a compound of “love” and “stranger.” Hospitality has its origin, literally, in love for outsiders, according to Dave Mathis from Desiring God. So, showing hospitality means opening up your home to strangers. If you read through the New Testament, you will find that hospitality is to be extended to our church family, missionaries, and biological family (Romans 12:12-13, 1 Peter 4:9, 3 John 5-8.).
Don’t neglect to show hospitality
In an age of individualism and busyness, hospitality has become a lost virtue in our Christian communities and can be shoved off pretty easily because we don’t have time for it or leave it for the “Martha Stewart” type of women that have a home that is decorated according to Pinterest standards. The New Testament makes it clear from passages in 1 Peter 4:9 and Romans 12:12-13 that all Christians are commanded to be hospitable, it’s not just a good recommendation.
But I invite my friends over all the time!
I used to think that hospitality was like entertaining. Matt and I are very social and always have been before salvation and presently. We were known as “party animals” by having people over for big cookouts, NASCAR races, football, etc. So when I first heard that I was commanded to show hospitality as a new believer I said proudly, “Yeah, I do that!” It was quite humbling to know that I was wrong! Sure, it’s fine to have your buddies over for a NASCAR party, but true, biblical hospitality is not having the same people over and over with the goal of fun and entertainment. A very helpful verse that I like to keep tucked away in my mindwhen thinking of people to have into our home is found inLuke 14:12-14,“When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers, or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be paid at the resurrection of the just.” Now,Jesus is not suggesting that you don’t invite family and friends because we know that from other NT teaching, you should. But I think what our Lord is saying is that having people into our homes that can’t repay us is a blessing. Our communities and churches are filled with people that need to be refreshed and encouraged with your love and service. Most likely, the people Jesus is talking about don’t’ get invited out often because they have a disability or just seem “needy.” Inviting those into your home that can’t repay you can be hard and inconvenient because you may not know them well or they can be a “drain” on you, but we are to “encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” (Thes. 5:14)
Our home, the gateway to evangelism
Practicing hospitality can be a great tool for evangelism in our church and community. In the New Testament, Christianity was a “home centered movement” due to the circumstances of not having a church building as we do now. Christians held church in their homes and used their homes as an entrance for spreading the Good News. When Matt and I first started attending Grace Baptist Church, some of our fondest memories were times spent in the homes of other Christians. This act of love was very impressionable on me as an unbeliever. I couldn’t believe that people actually sacrificed their time and money to have us over (a couple they barely knew) when they could have been doing a million other things. I did not have the privilege to grow up in a Christian home, so being able to see up close and personal how a Christian home ought to look like was such a blessing to me. I am certain God used these people and their homes as means to bring me to conversion a few years later. Hospitality is such a great testimony to those that are lost because it’s the Gospel in put into action. I also want to mention that if you have children, hospitality is wonderful for a few reasons: 1. It is a testimony to them that Jesus is important to their parents 2. It helps them to serve and look out for the interest of others 3. Builds character in them and will help them in their adult years to practice hospitality. Don’t think for one moment that your kids will just know how to invite others into their home by way of osmosis. They need to watch and learn!
Hospitality will reveal our heart
Peter tells us in 1 Peter 4:9 to show hospitality without grumbling. Having people into our home definitely takes a lot of work and sacrifice, but we are to do it without all the moaning and groaning. We are to show hospitality with an attitude of thankfulness because we love God. Paul tells us in Philippians 2:14 to “do all things without grumbling or disputing.” All things means not complaining under your breath as you mop the floor knowing that the family of 6 you have coming over will scuff it up J I used to have a very poor attitude when my husband would come to me after church service and say “Honey, I invited a new man over for lunch today.” My first thought was how inconvenient this was for me and that I just wanted to go home and rest. I can testify firsthand that hospitality has helped me become more flexible and patient because not all situations can be planned out and in my control. God is sovereign and gives us these opportunities to show that nasty sin in our heart and cause repentance in areas we need to grow.
May this turning of the seasons give way to a turning of our heart towards loving the Lord and loving our neighbor and make the most of every opportunity the Lord has given you to practice hospitality.
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:11