Offering Christian hospitality is a natural outflowing of Christian love which desires to enjoy the company of others for their mutual benefit.
Showing hospitality to others is such a commonplace and ordinary happening that we hardly give it much deeper thought than choosing the menu for the upcoming gathering. However, this last year in the panic of the pandemic, Christian hospitality took a hard hit. For weeks, no one visited or entertained either in homes or in churches. It wasn’t long before many wished for fellowship again. It also wasn’t long before many became used to a “new normal” that excluded Christian hospitality. For some who have resumed cautious gatherings, getting back into practice is challenging! Revisiting the Scriptural teachings of this Christian grace can revitalize hospitality in seasons to come.
The Scriptures show by example and teach by direct command the grace of Christian hospitality. Abraham, the friend of God and the father of the faithful, lived a unique life as God communed with him on several occasions. When the three men appeared near Abraham’s tent one day, Abraham ran to meet them, greeted them with honor, wished them to visit for a while, provided water for their dusty feet, and offered the shade of the tree for rest. Hurriedly, he asked Sarah to bake some bread and told his young men to prepare the young calf. Soon Abraham carried the meal of bread and butter, meat and milk to his guests. Abraham’s and Sarah’s eager actions, along with many other Old Testament scenes, as well as the gospels show us what hospitality entails and reflect New Testament commands given to the church.
The New Testament encourages Christians to be “given to hospitality” (Romans 12:13; 1 Timothy 3:2); to “use hospitality without grudging” (1 Peter 4:9); to be “a lover of hospitality” (Titus 1:8); and “to entertain strangers” (Hebrews 13:2). “Hospitality” comes from two Greek words—“love” and “stranger,” or “showing love to strangers.” As an outworking of our sincere love, we should be given to hospitality, cheerfully entertaining guests for God’s glory and for the good of others.
What is the foundation for our love of hospitality? Ephesians 2:11-22 explains God’s great love and kindness to those who were strangers to God’s covenants and promises, those with no hope and without God. Verses 13-19 crescendo with Christ’s work to take strangers and foreigners and to make them “fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God.” Being in Christ Jesus and reconciled to God, they are brought near through the blood of the cross and are made part of God’s family. Because of God’s abundant charity lavished on us, we, the strangers brought home to God, are motivated and empowered to extend hospitality to others.
Not only do hospitality opportunities abound in the Scriptures, but they abound in Christian history. The homes of Martin Luther, John Welsh, Thomas Chalmers, Charles Spurgeon, and Francis Schaeffer were often filled with guests and students. In the home, at the dinner table, and in evening conversations, these great men helped the younger generation work out the great theological concerns of their days. John Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Progress describes the sweet hospitality and spiritual benefit of the Interpreter’s House and the House Beautiful.
What encouragement for 21st century Christians to intentionally, passionately, and safely embrace hospitality for their enjoyment and mutual good and for the glory of God!