There have been moments in my life I have felt truly at home, a brief taste of the eternal in the fellowship of my company and the warmth of my surroundings. These haven’t just been random occurrences where people and setting and temperature and food aligned just right to produce that euphoric feeling of home. It has been the hospitality of brothers and sisters on earth.
As a woman, I feel a special call to hospitality, even in my singleness. After all, it was the hospitality of Rebekah that convinced Abraham’s servant that she was the one for Isaac and God tells the Israelites again and again about their responsibility to be hospitable to foreigners and to the poor. But the Bible does not exclude men from the responsibility of hospitality. When the Apostle Paul explained to Timothy and Titus the qualifications for men considered for leadership in the church, hospitality made the list.
Many Christians buy into the worldly view that hospitality is mere entertaining, and I am the first to admit that I often feel that way. Though gathering friends and family for mutual encouragement is very important, hospitality doesn’t end there.
Jesus explained it this way in Luke 14: “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." This is radical Christianity. I can’t imagine the impact we would have on our world if we practiced this sort of hospitality.
In small ways, I have seen it. Some friends wanted company on a two-day trip, so I tagged along. We spent the night with the family of some friends, people most of us had never met and none of us knew very well. More than just beds to sleep on, they invited us to eat dinner with them and drew us all sorts of maps so we wouldn’t get lost going out at night.
We may not have been the destitute that Christ was referring to, but we were college students grateful for a free place to stay in a city that was relatively new to us. Sitting at their table with three generations of people we experienced genuine hospitality. One friend later remarked that Paul must have had them in mind when he wrote in Hebrews 13, “let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
I sometimes cop out by citing my youthfulness and lack of a house and fine china and cloth napkins as an excuse to neglect hospitality. But hospitality doesn’t necessitate good dishes. It necessitates a willing spirit. We must be willing to welcome people to dine with us, both in a spiritual sense and a practical one. We must have a servant’s heart and consider others first to be effective in creating an atmosphere where people can truly be at home. We have to persevere. Lots of people we invite won’t repay us with the thank you cards and reciprocal invitations we expect. Those are the people that need hospitality the very most. As the Apostle Paul told the Galatians, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the family of our faith.”
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