What does it mean to practice biblical hospitality? What comes to your mind when you hear that term?
For some, it conjures up images of cleaning the house frantically because people are coming over for dinner. You stress and sweat while hoping the house looks immaculate and the meal is perfect. Then, after the guests have left, it means cleaning everything back up and likely complaining, uh, discussing how the guests stayed too late and their kids were too messy.
To others, biblical hospitality merely seems out of touch and out of date. Maybe to you hospitality made sense in biblical days, or perhaps when your grandparents were your age. But, today? Nah. People don’t live like that anymore. We live in the era where people shop online, pick out groceries with an app and have them delivered, and have fences to make sure no one can see you. Maybe hospitality seems like a word reserved for a former day.
Scripture is clear about hospitality. Here are a few examples:
-"Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:13
-"Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” 1 Peter 4:9
-"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2
The mandate for hospitality is not cultural; it is scriptural. In the early church, one of the things that differentiated Christians from the world was their hospitality. They cared for people’s needs. They took the stranger into their home. They used their homes, hearts, and time for the gospel. While our culture has indeed changed, the command to show hospitality and its purpose have not.
If the Bible tells Christians to practice hospitality (and it does in Romans 12), why are so many of us hesitant to do so? There are several reasons which we will examine over the course of this week.
1. Some have not been taught to initiate biblical hospitality
Many lessons and character traits are better “caught” than “taught.” In other words, certain things become a part of our life because we were exposed to them and saw them displayed in the lives of others. Parents who frequently model hospitality are likely to have children who have a heart to use their home and resources to bless others. It may take time, but if the children were exposed to true hospitality, they will likely “catch” it. For many, they simply were never able to see hospitality lived out. If you were raised in a home where your “stuff” was exclusively for you and people needed to take care of themselves solely, then the idea of practicing hospitality will take some work.
2. Some do not practice hospitality because of fear
Many fears can keep us from using our home, heart, and time to serve others. The fear of inconvenience can be stifling. The fear of spending your hard-earned money on someone else may be a problem because you think you do not have any extra resources to spare. The fear of someone seeing your home in its real-life condition may be a hindrance. Or, maybe your house is pristine, and the fear of someone else messing it up is a barrier. Perhaps the fear of initiating a friendship with people you do not know seems insurmountable. There are lots of worries that come to mind that keep us from obeying the Scripture.
3. Some do not practice hospitality because they have lost their enthusiasm for the gospel and people
Biblical hospitality is gospel-focused. We get to know people and bring them into our lives for the sake of the gospel. We want to share Christ with the unbeliever. We want to encourage the Christian to grow. We desire to build relationships with people so we can encourage them unto godly living and good works for the glory of Christ. When our zeal for the gospel fades, so will our desire to invest in the lives of other people.
4. Some do not practice hospitality because they are waiting until they have more
Maybe you think that someday, when you have a bigger home, then you will open it up to build relationships. Perhaps you assume that when your income increases then you will use your resources to bless others and be gospel-focused. That, however, is not usually the way it works. Obeying Scripture is not a factor of your circumstances, but instead, it is all about your heart.
Maybe one of these fears is a reason you have been slow to practice hospitality. It may be that something on the list above has prevented you from using what God has entrusted to you as a way to bring people into your life for the sake of the gospel. If so, I encourage you to take it to the Lord. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a desire to use your home, your heart, and your time to strengthen the spiritual lives of others. Admit your hesitancy and seek God’s grace to obey His Word no matter the struggle.
We will look throughout this week at how we can grow in this area and consider biblical and practical ways to put hospitality into practice.
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