Here we go, friends – it’s the holiday season again. And that means a lot of things, including an increase opportunity to practice hospitality. This is the season of the year when we tend to host more people in our homes and churches than most other times of the year. These few weeks, then, are a chance for Christians to take hold of this quality that characterized the New Testament church.
The biblical writers certainly thought hospitality was important:
- “Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality” (Romans 12:13).
- “Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).
- “Be hospitable to one another without complaining” (1 Peter 4:9).
Hospitality was vitally important to the spread of the gospel in the days when the church was just beginning to flourish because when traveling to a new area, people were at the mercy of the people who lived in that city. Christians took hospitality seriously, and because they did, the gospel was able to take root as it spread through displaced Christians who were welcomed into the homes and lives of others.
But times have changed. Despite the fact that much of our lives is lived in a “public” way online, most people value privacy more than they did in the past. Though we might put forth a version of ourselves through social media, we still really like our personal space, personal thought, and personal time. The very nature of hospitality runs counter to this. Hospitality is sharing what we consider to be “personal” with each other in a sacrificial way.
True enough, there are some who gravitate more naturally towards this kind of sharing with others; they are bent towards a more “public” approach to life than others. But if you take the words of Scripture seriously, hospitality is more than a character trait that is easier for some than others to practice; it’s a command. Hospitality is to be pursued and not neglected without complaining.
But how do we get there? How do we start to overcome that sense of privacy? How do us introverts stop using our personalities as a crutch and move further into real community? Our first recourse is prayer.
When we pray, we recognize that we are incapable of doing or providing or manufacturing something on our own. In prayer, we express our reliance on God as our Provider. In this case, we recognize our own selfishness and commitment to our own desires is what keeps us from sacrificially serving and loving others in the most practical of ways.
So what should we pray for in order to foster an attitude of hospitality? We can begin with these things:
1. Pray that God would help you see yourself as a steward.
One of the reasons we struggle with hospitality is that we see ourselves as owners. We own a house. We own our time. We own our food. These things are ours. But we are not owners; we are stewards. Everything we have has been given to us by God to use for the sake of His kingdom. That means everything is laid before God as the true owner for Him to do with as He sees fit.
2. Pray that God would help you confront your greed.
Another reason we struggle with hospitality is that we are just plain greedy. We hoard our resources for our own personal use and comfort, and that greed makes us hesitant to share them with anyone else. Hospitality is one of the ways God actually breaks us of this characteristic. When we practice hospitality, the person we welcome in certainly benefits, but we do as well. We grow spiritually because God is using our hospitality to answer our prayer to confront the greed in our hearts.
3. Pray that God would bring you opportunity.
If we really want to be obedient to the command of hospitality, then we should be praying for the opportunity to put action to our faith. We should be asking God to open our eyes to the needs around us – the needs of those who do not have a place to go, or people to be with, or friends to confide in. Chances are when we start praying to see opportunities it won’t take long for us to be shocked at how numerous they are.
As we are praying these things, let’s also remember what hospitality really is, for that will show us its true importance. While there are certain acts, like making the casserole or opening your home, that are indicative of hospitality, the characteristic itself has a deeper meaning and implication than these actions. The word hospitality comes from the combination of two words: “love” and “stranger.” Literally, then, hospitality is the love of strangers.
This is a powerful description of the gospel. When we were strangers and aliens, God took us in. When we were without a home and family, God brought us into His. When we were without hope in the world, God adopted us as His children. In the ultimate act of hospitality, God provided a way to welcome us through the death of Jesus Christ. When we practice hospitality, we mirror what has been done for us by our ultimately and eternally hospitable God.