Living faithfully involves Christian assembly. The assembling of Christians is not only the timeframe of worship, but other gathering times of Christians as well. Fellowship, koinonia, communion, joint participation, social action with Christians, as taken from an assembling point of view shows a responsibility of the Christian to engage in the opportunity to be united with the body of Christ . For a few moments, let’s focus on the hospitality point of view of fellowship which shows the responsibility of the Christian to offer kindness to others not only in the body of Christ, but outside of it.
Hospitality as used in the New Testament comes from two words: philonexia seen twice and Philoxenos seen three times. The words are compound with the first part meaning “fond” and the second “stranger”. Thus, the definition is understood for these words is seen as “fondness or love for strangers”.
To determine if an individual is a false or true teacher of the faith, they must be examined by scripture. The Bereans did this in regard to Paul in Acts 17:11. John in regard to the topic of determining the doctrine of potential false teachers established their teachings should be tested (I John 4:1-2). In Matthew 7:15-17, Jesus establishes false teachers or true will be known by their fruits. Paralleling the idea that one can be known by what they do is Jesus’ teaching in regard to those claiming to be followers of His. He told his disciples in John 13:35 – “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
Consider the following:
1 John 2:5 – “But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him”.
1 John 3:14 – “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.”
1 John 5:2 – “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.”
Matthew 5:44 – “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”
These verses tell us that Christians love one another and even love their enemies according to his command. Hospitality is commanded – Romans 12:9-21 – Hospitality is a Christian characteristic given to all men.
It is given to the stranger and it is given to other Christians (I Peter 4:9).
Please understand, these many verses are being examined so we can understand hospitality must be a part of our lives if we are Christians. Two verses in scripture regarding hospitality are directed to the leaders of the Church. They are given to the elders who are Godly men and examples for the congregation.
1 Timothy 3:2 – “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;”
Titus 1:8 – “But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate”;
Whether male or female, the godly behaviors of an elder should be what we all aim to imitate. They are Christ’s, we are Christ’s! Therefore, Hebrews 13:2 tells us not to forget hospitality.
As the body of Christ gathered together for worship, through verbal invitation, print media, and signage, we invite others to gather with us to come to know God. Some folks come to a worship assembly and say it is boring. A true knowledge of God can transform that view in the heart of the believer. When they realize it is they who are worshipping and serving before the God that created them and saved them, boring disappears in the face of graciousness, humility, and joy. Thus, the mistaken misinterpretation can be overlooked in view of ignorance. However, what cannot be overlooked is when the stranger, the new convert, the members of the body of Christ are overlooked by the Christians each week.
One of my greatest joys as a boy growing up was the fact that most members of the congregation I attended were there for all gathers at the Church building or away from it. When we gathered at the building to worship or study, people were there 45 minutes beforehand and after. Everyone was greeted. Everyone interacted together. Gatherings were arranged for private gatherings away from the building. Certainly strangers or visitors were asked to homes for meals, but hospitality is far more than feeding someone. Hospitality is caring about their welfare and trying to serve someone else’s needs. Many congregations have “hospitality groups” which in theory are great, but in practice are like “youth ministers”. The youth ministers have been treated as if they were replacement parents and the “hospitality groups” as replacement Christians. (Mat 5:16) – “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven”. We should always be seeking an opportunity ! Galatians 6:10 – “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”
Our obligation to hospitality follows us every day. It is there when we are at our homes. It is there when we are at work. It is there when we are on walks, or trips, or at the supermarket. I Peter 4:9 tells us “Offer hospitality to one another without GRUMBLING”.
Example: Well, I took Sister Martha for her weekly shopping the other day. It took nearly half my day to get to the store and back. She just poked along looking at every little thing. But God wants me to be hospitable so I did it.
Hospitality isn’t a notch on the belt. Hospitality is a heart felt love for others and a desire to serve. When we look at the life of Jesus, He was everywhere doing everything for everyone. He certainly could have been one who grumbled. Yet, (Acts 10:38) describes Jesus as one who “went about doing good”.
In Genesis 18:1-8, Abraham literally ran to meet the opportunity to serve strangers who were passing by. He offered them rest, a foot wash, and quite a fine meal. This is someone who wanted to serve. The (Romans 12:13) passage read earlier which in the NASV says “practicing hospitality” actually means to pursue or run swiftly after hospitality. Abraham did exactly that.
In Genesis 19:1-3, Abraham’s nephew Lot when given the opportunity to serve strangers offered them lodging for a night and foot washing, and fed them. This despite the fact that people of that city were wicked and perhaps these strangers would be too. Certainly, with opportunities to serve, there will at times be risk. Think of the times we didn’t stop to help someone with car trouble, because of the risk. We didn’t visit someone in need, because we might get sick, or they lived in a bad part of town.
Jesus gives a parable in Luke 10:30-35. The Samaritan certainly put himself at risk to be hospitable. This was a risk others were not willing to take. Not only did the Samaritan put himself at risk, but being hospitable cost him. 1 John 3:17 – “But whoso hath the world’s goods, and beholdeth his brother in need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God abide in him?” Sometimes, hospitality will cost us. However, remember, nothing is this world is our own, but all of it is from God.
In the beginning, God put Adam and Eve on the earth. They were made as we are today, in the image of God. They had the special relationship with God to actually be in His presence, but they gave it up to partake of fruit they had been told not to eat. Their sin did what all men’s sins do, it separated them from God as (Isaiah 59:1-2). God through His grace let man do their own thing, until they were so wicked he destroyed all but eight with a flood.
God then chose a people out of Egypt spoken of in Acts 13:17. The people of Israel were strangers. They were sinful. Yet, God was hospitable to them. He delivered them. He guided them. He provided for them. He gave them a pattern in the law which would teach them godly behavior. He did it because He is a hospitable God.
Ephesians 2:11-19 speaks of our hospitable Christ. We were strangers. We had separated ourselves from God in our sin. Yet, again His kindness delivered us. He offers to deliver all those today who are lost in sin. They only need to allow Him to help.
There are an endless amount of kind things we can do for others whether they be strangers or close friends. Consider first, the description of a widow indeed according to I Timothy 5:9-10.
We can be kind to strangers.
We can care for the saints.
We can help those in need.
We can devote ourselves to Good works.
Hospitality can be opening doors, carrying books, giving up your seat, delivering a meal, reading for someone, stopping to give directions, complimenting someone, visiting the hospital when you don’t know anyone there, visiting the senior center, carrying groceries, mowing a lawn, holding a hymn book, holding a hand, listening, sewing for someone, reading to someone….
The bottom line is be kind, be loving, show your goodness to everyone you meet.
Hospitality is expected of the Body of Christ, the Church. It is expected of every individual Christian. It can be conveyed in many ways, but it needs to be from the heart. We have many Biblical examples of Hospitality showing hospitality is not without its risks and costs. Christ understood the cost would be suffering and dying for us, but he was willing to do what it took to show hospitality to strangers. Christ “went about doing good” and so should we.