In Peter’s letters to the church in exile among Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, he wrote to offer encouragement and instruction on how to live as people of hope, righteousness, and faithfulness amid real suffering and persecution. These people were living in a foreign land with no real provision, protection, or priority in society.
Peter called them to focus their attention on the living hope that they possessed in Jesus and then offered a host of instructions for living this hope out in everyday life. Interestingly, among the many instructions, we find the command to “show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:9). This command for the people of God to be characterized by hospitality shows up repeatedly in the Bible.
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” - Romans 12:9-13
Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, - 1 Timothy 3:2
Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. - 1 Timothy 5:9-10
Jesus said, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” - Matthew 25:35-36
He said also to the man who had invited him, "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
Throughout redemptive history, the people of God have been defined by hospitality. This has not changed and is still a command and calling for Christians today. Yes, that means you and me!
Hospitality is defined as “the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.” (Mains). In the New Testament, the Greek word translated “hospitality” is the compound of “love” and “stranger”.
We should be these kinds of people and love in this way, “without grumbling” as Peter instructed. We do this not just because God said so, but because we should want to. We ought to be people who open our homes, wallets, cars, resources, and our hearts to other people, including strangers. It should be something that naturally overflows from our lives as the redeemed people of God. We should love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
It is no coincidence, that radical hospitality is also strategic. We live in a post-Christian America. The days of the church being central to people’s lives are over for now. The days of the church simply opening doors and expecting people to show up are over. The days of lost people packing into conference centers and crusades are gone. Jesus told us to “go”, and we must. Instead of the conference center, we must open our dining room tables and living rooms, to one another and those who need Jesus.
It is simple but radical. We live in a very inhospitable world. The world is selfish. We are trained to focus on “me, myself, and I”. It would be wonderfully and radically strange to be the sort of people who are focused on others first. In doing so, we would win the right and attention of those around us to share the source of our hospitality…JESUS.
Practicing simple but radical hospitality is Great Commission work. It is the work of real disciples.
Would others say that you are characterized by hospitality?
If not, pray, give it to Jesus, ask for His help, start making intentional decisions and steps to engage the world around you at home, at church, in your workplace, and in the public square in a helpful hospitable manner.
Who can you invite to breakfast, lunch or dinner? Who is struggling around you with needs that you know you can easily meet? Who do you know is hurting that can use your hugs, comfort, encouragement, and kind words?
Lord Jesus give us eyes to see people the way you do and hearts to love as you love. Amen.