It was the great missionary William Carey who said in the late 18th century: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”
That resonates with most Christians; we want to see God move mightily, and we want to play a part in it. We want to see our homes, communities, countries, and world reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ. But where do we begin? Where do we start?
We might get so fixated on “attempting something great” that we miss the opportunity right in front of us – an opportunity that is readily available and also very simple. The best opportunity you might have to impact your community right now is through hospitality. What’s more, that’s not a new phenomenon.
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. It’s not wonder, then, that the biblical authors of the New Testament put such an emphasis on hospitality:
- “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).
From a purely pragmatic perspective, the early church had to practice hospitality in order for the gospel to continue to move throughout the world and for the church to grow. But there’s also a deeper reason why hospitality is so vital – that’s because practicing hospitality is one of the simplest and most tangible ways we model the truth of the gospel.
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.
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 what the gospel is. 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. God is ultimately hospitable, and therefore hospitality is a characteristic built into the spiritual DNA of all those who have experienced this divine hospitality.
Choosing the way of hospitality says something about the nature of the gospel to others. Specifically, here are three aspects of our faith we put on display when we welcome others into our lives:
1. We are speaking about our provision.
Exercising hospitality will cost us something. It will cost us time, energy, resources, privacy – all kinds of things. Any time there is a personal cost, the temptation for us is to focus on what we are giving up in order to welcome someone else in. When we make ourselves willing to be used by God in order to practice hospitality, we are testifying that we believe God to be our great provider. He will take care of our needs.
2. We are speaking about our contentment.
Hospitality requires us to share with others, and if we are going to share with others, it means that we will have to do with less ourselves. We will have less personal time, less personal space, less personal comfort. But when we choose this posture of hospitality, we are testifying about our personal contentment. Having less is fine, because we know that when we have Jesus, we truly already have more than enough.
3. We are speaking about our future.
God is not merely redeeming individuals; He is building a people for His own glory. This people will live together, with Him, for all eternity. Heaven will not be lived out in isolation, but in community. If we believe this to be true, then one way we testify to that belief is by pursuing a posture of hospitality right now. When we welcome others in, we are living out a small foretaste of what’s to come in the future.
True enough, you might be more naturally bent toward this sharing of life than someone else. But regardless of our natural personality traits, the practicing of hospitality is one of the simplest ways we can engage those around us with the truth of the gospel.