If we are to be faithful in our living according to the word of God then hospitality ought to be a primary mooring in our life.
Modern day hospitality is associated with the Food Network, Martha Stewart, and Home and Garden. But what does hospitality mean for a Christian? What does Peter’s instruction to “show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9) look like? The modern family has homeschool curriculum to complete, piano lessons to attend, church groups to participate in, not to mention the daily duties of work around the house. Gospel hospitality is not meant to be an event to be coordinated with extravagance and excess, but a simple, thoughtful, loving means by which we can put into practice: (1) obedience to the commands of Scripture, (2) compassion for others in the warmth of a loving home, (3) discipleship to those that may need guidance or are struggling in their faith, (4) evangelism, and (5) service.
If we are to be faithful in our living according to the word of God then hospitality ought to be a primary mooring in our life. We see hospitality as a principle in Jesus’ life when he breaks bread with sinners and saints, as well as an explicit command through the Apostles (i.e. 1 Peter 4:9, 1 Timothy 3:2, and Titus 1:8). Sadly the busyness of our culture has helped to deter this basic tenet of Christianity. We ought to prioritize our lives and weed out those things which are not necessary, to make room for those which God commands us to make primary.
It is easy to make excuses as to why we shouldn’t practice hospitality. But, hospitality is a calling and a means to glorify God.
In being obedient and, subsequently, exercising compassion, we inevitably model a brand of Christianity that is largely lost to the modern church, to its tendency towards “health and wealth” and “seeker-sensitive” Christianity.
One area where hospitality intrinsically goes hand in hand is in regards to compassion. When we welcome brothers and sisters in our home and we shower them with Biblical love, that is, not self-seeking but other’s oriented, we provide them rest. Now, ultimate peace and rest lies solely on Christ, however, we are called to “bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). This attitude is much more than saying “we’re praying for you” but cuts to the quick and requires us to share our hearts with one another. To share our hearts by granting comfort and counsel guided with tenderness by those who are overtaken by trials and faults. It again directs us back to our first point of obedience. But obedience to what? The word of God. In essence, it is to act in accordance with the law of Christ “love your neighbor as yourself.”
In being obedient and, subsequently, exercising compassion, we inevitably model a brand of Christianity that is largely lost to the modern church, to its tendency towards “health and wealth” and “seeker-sensitive” Christianity. By modeling this true, orthodox Christianity, we are granted the opportunity to disciple our brothers and sisters. Discipleship is not theological training, although it can and should include some of that, but it is a means by which believers reach one another’s hearts and minds for their further sanctification. We aim to be like Christ. Our salvation should produce a godly sorrow for sin. We ought to as Hebrews 10:24-25 commands “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.” It is evident that even in early Christianity that some neglected the gathering together – this is an obvious reference to The Lord’s Day gathering – however, it is also pointing us to the familial relationships that are characterized by visiting one another at home. It is a venue by which older men can disciple younger men and older women can disciple younger women (i.e. Titus 2); where families can come together and build one another up in the admonition of the Lord. Let us heed the counsel of the book of Hebrews and pursue these relationships.
We ought to actively pursue Gospel-centered hospitality because it is a picture of what the gospel helps to produce, as well as a means of proclaiming this gospel of grace. It’s been said before that your kitchen table is perhaps your greatest evangelistic tool. Some people might never step through the doors of a church, but they would the doors of your home. And the gospel is what compels us. The unfathomable act of Christ condescending to us, leaving heavenly glory to humble Himself as a man, living perfectly in accordance to the Law, and offering Himself up for us as payment for our sin, securing us perfectly forever, and reconciling us with God, is all the incentive we should need to open up our homes to others. When we examine Jesus’ earthly ministry, while He did teach at synagogues and fields, He did His most jarring and revolutionary work in the homes of those who were outcasts. Sharing a table, eating with tax collectors and sinners was one of the most notable platforms of Christ’s ministry. When the religious elite of His day questioned Him, he simply stated: “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).
As Jesus plainly teaches in Mark 9:35 “if anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all;” we serve because our Savior served. Service unto others is reflecting part of the nature of Christ. In serving our brothers and sisters and even those who are far off (i.e. unbelievers), we can take part in the joy that it is to follow in the footsteps of our Savior. How dare we think we deserve to call ourselves followers of Christ when what He plainly lived out we would refuse to do? Serving is a privilege and we ought to see it that way.
The essence of Gospel hospitality unfolds in such a way that we can see each one of these points is built off of the other. In our obedience to Scripture, we show compassion. When compassion is given, heart to heart, life on life discipleship is birthed. As we begin to disciple those God has placed in our lives, we find that our own lives continue to be sanctified by the power of the gospel. Therefore, we accept the call to use our homes with the intent of sharing the gospel (evangelism) and modeling the gospel in service to them.
O to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wand’ring sinners to find. – Thomas O. Chisholm (1897)