Friday, October 9, 2015

On Christian Hospitality

I’m a little late on this week’s post because my wife and I have been hosting a friend from out of town in our home this week. I honestly love it when my wife’s family and friends come to visit, as it always feels like a friendly competition to, as the ESV renders Romans 12:10, “outdo one another in showing honor.” I hope that we are able to keep up in being at least as much a blessing to such visitors as we are blessed by them. God is so good to us through His people!

I have often myself been the one welcomed into another's home, especially in times of need. Back in college, I remember there being weeks between where my lease at one apartment would end and my lease at the next was scheduled to begin, and every time there was some Christian brother more than willing to take me into his home for as long as I needed. When we first moved to Utah, a Christian family here let us sleep in their home the first night as we could not move into our apartment until the next day, and then when they found out that the truck with our belongings was delayed and would not arrive until the next week, they and others in their church family lent us a bed to sleep on and filled our fridge with food to make our new apartment livable until our truck got in. As recently as a last month, a Christian family in Bulgaria that we had never met took us into their home for the bulk of the week we were there for our first adoption visit. They would have hosted us the entire time if we had not needed to leave the city part of the week. They fed us, and even insisted on giving up their bed and room to us, all for no other reason than that we were family in Christ and that we were travelers in need. These are only a few of many examples I could give. When Romans 12:13 says “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality,” I have tasted of what this means, and it is good!

The scriptures take this idea of hospitality quite seriously, actually. In Matthew 25, in the famous parable where Jesus is pronouncing judgment and reward based on treatment he received, and both crowds are confused and asking when they did such things, and Jesus famously remarks “that which you did to the least of these my brothers, you did also to me,” we often remember ones like, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,” or “I was naked and you clothed me,” but may not pay as close attention to, “ I was a stranger and you welcomed me in.” It is a lot easier to show charity outside our home than it is to welcome people in. Even our relatives we sometimes prefer to stay at a hotel nearby, but a stranger? That truly takes a selfless surrender of our personal comfort. But 1 peter 4:9 commands us to “Be hospitable to one another without complaining.” Hebrews 13:2 calls to mind a few remarkable Old Testament accounts, such as that of Lot, when it declares, “Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it.” Paul’s letters to Titus and Timothy even teach that being hospitable is one of the basic qualifications for being appointed to leadership in the local church! It is a necessary sign of Christian maturity that one be compassionate, sacrificial, serving, and welcoming to others in need with regard to one’s home, especially when it comes to the needs of other believers. And as Jesus Himself taught:

“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person's reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:40-42)

Jesus elsewhere teaches that this does extend beyond the fellowship to the hurting in general as well:
“When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14)

There is reward in opening our home to those in need, especially when we can’t get anything out of it ourselves. We do it to honor God alone, and trust Him for our reward. There are many ways to apply this truth today, and I by no means write this to make you feel guilty, but rather to encourage you! Most of the language we have looked at is not that of judgment but that of blessing, reward, growth, maturity, and pleasing God! This is the kind of people God has remade us to be, and in this we make Him smile and bless those He loves. It’s a lot of hard work, and kind be as much a duty as a pleasure in many cases, but it truly is a joy to open our homes and be about the Lord’s business, providing care for brothers and sisters whose homes have been damaged in disasters, or helping families temporarily out of work, or housing short term missionaries working in our area, our homes can be a haven for the needy, a blessing to the kingdom, and an expression of the love of God!

I will briefly here at the end offer one specific application we can make in our modern, western context. Hospitality can be wonderfully lived out by Christian’s opening their homes to children and teens in need as foster parents. Whether the child be an orphan awaiting adoption or whether they are still pursuing reconciliation with and return to their parents, these hurting boys and girls are in need not only of food and clothing and shelter, but along with those things of love, patience, structure, compassion, and in many instances the gospel itself! Some of these children are already our brothers in sisters in need of our help, and some are the hurting and poor of this world in need of redemption through God’s compassion, expressed in our own compassion. In either case we please our God and advance His kingdom when we open our homes in this way. I have been blessed and challenged by the self sacrifice of families I know who have taken up this ministry within their homes, and their examples send ripples throughout the church beyond what they probably even realize. This is, of course, only one possible expression of biblically hospitality, and it is a hard one. But it is also a good an needed one, and one a pray many of you may seriously consider now or in the future.

Luke Wayne is a bi-vocational Baptist missionary in Utah and the chief editor for Perilous Trails. He holds an MDiv from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and an MA in Theological Studies from Midwestern Baptist College. He has served as a church planter in Olathe, KS and a Homeless Shelter Manager in Kansas City, MO. He is also a husband, father, fisher, hiker, security officer, and raiser of livestock.

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