Last week I began to write a few reflections on Hospitality. These thoughts, and the ones to come are taken from a session that I just delivered at a women’s retreat: Hospitality and the Gospel. My life has been blessed by an endless stream of people who love Jesus and who have loved me, and have modeled for me what hospitality looks like.
I mentioned Rosaria Butterfield’s book last week: The Gospel Comes with a Housekey: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in our Post Christian World. She states the purpose of Hospitality:
Radically ordinary hospitality is this: using your Christian home in a daily way that seeks to make strangers neighbors, and neighbors family of God, pointing others to the Bible-believing local church, and being earthly and spiritual good to everyone we know.p.31
Hospitality is about making our God known in a world that has tried to shut Him out. Contained in the quote above is the Biblical definition of hospitality: the love of strangers– φιλοξενία. “To make strangers neighbors, and neighbors family of God…” We find the concept throughout the Scriptures–Old and New Testament. Jesus says that hospitality is the obvious, visible activity of a true believer. What separates the sheep from the goats? The sheep are identified as having feed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited strangers and prisoners–all done as if for Jesus.
“Strangers” are in the definition of hospitality, but the Bible doesn’t leave it there. Below is a short list of a few other folks that God’s people are meant to care for followed by a few references that may be helpful in your continued study. These are for sure not the only verses that you could look up, but they are a good place to start.
- Foreigners, immigrants, and refugees Genesis 18:1-22; Leviticus 25:35
- The poor and needy. Luke 14:7-14
- Unbelievers. Luke 5:29; Acts 5:42
- Widows and orphans. 1 Timothy 5:1-16; James 1:27
- Fellow Believers. Hebrews 13
- Christian workers. Matthew 10:9-11; Luke 10:7-16; Acts 16:15
My own journey into hospitality came through the latter category as my parents invited visiting missionaries to stay in our home. Our small apartment wasn’t ideal for guests–we didn’t have a guestroom, and we all shared one bathroom (and a tiny, itty, bitty hot-water heater). As a child, I often slept on the floor of my brother’s bedroom so that our guests could have my room. But we loved those visits and hung on every word of every story we could get out of these precious servants of the Lord. We hosted quiet, faithful giants of the faith–and our faith grew as a result.
It doesn’t matter your stage in life or the size of your house, God has equipped you and can strengthen you to care for others as if you are serving Jesus. Maybe you can take cookies to a lonely colleague at work, or speak with the janitor as a friend. Maybe you will invite new people at church over for popcorn Sunday night (or even talk to them at the end of the service). Maybe you will face the grief of caring for foster kids or experience the paper pregnancy of adoption. Or, maybe you can babysit or cook for others who do.
Today’s tip for offering hospitality? Pray. We are in a spiritual battle, and the Enemy would want nothing more than to divide God’s people and separate the Lost from those who have been found. Pray for opportunities, pray for courage, and pray for the grace to care for others the way you would care for Jesus.