Hospitality, A Forgotten Command

“Romans 12:13, “Contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.”
1 Peter 4:9, “Use hospitality one to another without grudging.” It is also a quality that is to be found in an elder (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8).

Why is hospitality so important that God would command us, His people, to practice it? As a Christian, I have certain responsibilities toward my brothers and sisters in Christ and one of those is to practice this need that all saints have.

In Romans 12:13, Paul said to “contribute to the needs of the saints…” Need in this passage is the Greek wordchreiawhich means, necessity, need, duty and business. Hospitality is the Greek word philonexia, which means to love strangers and hospitality. Sometimes I hear brethren use the technical meaning of the word, “love toward strangers” and I wonder if they show love to a stranger? When was the last time you had a stranger in your home for a meal? In these two texts it cannot mean to show love to a stranger because it is commanded to Christians to be given to other Christians.

Debbie and I grew up in similar households where hospitality was practiced both to strangers and to fellow Christians. We are indebted to our parents for that example. For most of my Christian life I hadn’t noticed hospitality in the Bible. However, it is everywhere in the Bible. The word “hospitality” occurs in Acts, Romans, 1 Timothy, Hebrews, 1 Peter, and 3 John. In other words, almost every New Testament writer uses it.

But the idea of hospitality goes beyond the word occurrence. It’s there when Zacchaeus welcomes Jesus into his home with joy (Luke 19:5-6). Or when Levi throws a banquet for Jesus and invites his tax-collecting friends (Luke 5:29). It’s there when Lydia invites Paul and his entourage to her home (Acts 16:15). Or when the jailer takes Paul and Silas to his home for a meal (Acts 16:34). Interestingly, in many of these examples, it’s the nonbeliever who is hospitable to the believer!

So, what is the big deal about hospitality? Hospitality is another means of evangelism, and if we carefully read the New Testament letters, we find that hospitality is quite prominent among the topics discussed and practiced by the early church. While the gifts of teaching and preaching proclaim the words of the gospel, hospitality demonstrates that the gospel is real, authentic, believable, attractive, and livable.

You see, hospitality provides the spaces where conversation occurs. In almost every other area of life it’s difficult to have a conversation of any weighty matter. Sometimes it’s because it’s inconvenient – we have work, school, and prior commitments. But the whole point of a meal together is to talk. The great irony of eating together is that it isn’t about the food. It’s about connecting, developing friendship, and deep relationships.

Hospitality also shows that the gospel is real. I believe one of the most powerful proclamations of the gospel is the family meal in a Christian family. Here we see that the gospel works when others join the experience of our family lives.

Written by: Rick Billingsley

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