You and I are lucky. We are saturated with the Gospel. We hear it, read it and share it all the time. That’s what our mission is about: To know God, be filled with His truth, and make Him known, so others will be filled with His truth too.
But how often do we see the Gospel as essential as hospitality? Even more, how often do we consciously live out and share the gospel by practicing hospitality?
Hospitality. What come to your mind when you hear the term “hospitality”?
If this thought came across your mind: “not for me!”, you wouldn’t be the first. There is a common misconception that before practicing hospitality, one needs to be gifted in entertaining, cooking, home decoration and reproducing DIY projects found on Pinterest. If this were true, the majority of us out there would not even qualify (stick figures and burnt cookies anyone?) And gentlemen? I’m sorry, but unless you’re willing to wear frilled aprons you sewed out of recycled material and decorate cupcakes for your next book club meeting, you should leave hospitality to the ladies. Now, this seems silly, I know, and slightly offensive, but how many of us have bought this lie that hospitality is beyond our capacity?
Webster’s 1826 dictionary defines hospitality as “The practice of receiving and entertaining strangers or guests without reward.” And hospitality is for everyone.
Thanks to social media and an access to trends at our fingertips, it is easy to believe the world’s glamorous version of hospitality is all there is to it. Only, as with most good things under the sun, hospitality finds it’s origin in the character and the creativity of God. And his definition of hospitality is more than food, drinks and pretty spaces. It is Webster’s definition, and it is so much more.
God himself has shown us what true hospitality is is in the story of the Gospel. It begins with the Trinity looking for ways to extend their relationship to others. So God creates mankind and gives it a beautiful place to live in, to steward and to make even better. But the Fall estranges man from God; their friendship is no longer the same. Even though man rejects Him, God relentlessly works throughout the next centuries to restore and bring mankind back into an unbroken communion with Him. He finds a willing few, like Abraham, to whom he extends the invitation of being a friend of God and the promise that this friendship will be a blessing to all nations. Just read Abraham’s story in Genesis to see how he was welcomed by God into His great Gospel plan and how Abraham showed hospitality to many, while himself being a nomad in strange lands. It is fascinating! And at some point in time, God himself comes down to be among his estranged creation.
Jesus, Trinity’s secret to the restoration of creation, not only demonstrated hospitality by dwelling with men, but throughout his time on earth, he also modeled genuine hospitality. He invited strangers like Andrew, Nathaniel and Levi to follow him. He purposefully shared meals with tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners. He allowed himself to be interrupted by people who voiced out their need for him, giving them in return, not a cold shoulder nor a grumble, but all of his attention. I’d say, from receiving invitations into people’s homes, to preparing breakfast for his closest friends, Jesus’ ministry was one unending display of hospitality!
And it all culminated at the cross. Motivated by obedience and infinite love, Jesus pays the penalty of death for all sins accumulated, and yet to come, since the Fall by mankind. He takes our place. His stretched out hands on the wooden beam mirrored the stretched out hands of the Father, welcoming home all misfits and prodigals. The invitation is out there: for all those who’ll acknowledge the son’s sacrifice. God is extending his friendship, His very self, and he tells his now, not so stranger friends, that he’s preparing a place for them in heaven and that the party is on! Will they, will we, accept or refuse this act of hospitality?
The really cool thing about the gospel is that it doesn’t end with reconciliation between God and men. In Jesus, now all relationships are reconciled! We “are no longer strangers and aliens but we are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…” Paul writes in Ephesians. So although we may not know everyone on a familial basis, we have a responsibility to treat others as though we are family, not strangers. This means more than just being polite to our pew neighbors in church. It means showing hospitality in all sort of forms, just as we were shown hospitality by God. The New Testament abounds with commands directed at us:
“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” (Romans 12:13).
“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:9)
“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:7)
And hospitality, as hard and inconvenient at times, (But, but! I’m busy), to already show those we like or are more likely to agree with, is also required of us towards complete strangers.
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2)
Jesus knew that one of the greatest keys to a persons heart is by showing them kindness and hospitality. Not with strings attached, motivated by quid-pro quo. Hospitality motivated by love. Think about it: how did you come to a saving knowledge of Jesus? What makes home a home? What person, aside from your immediate family, has had the greatest influence in your life? Can you name your favorite primary school teacher? What’s the best thing anyone ever did for you? If you can tie back any of your answers to these questions to some form of hospitality displayed to you, there are high chances you were shown a biblical form of hospitality. The kind that, just like God who draws the unlikely to him so he can bless them, moved your heart into a position ready to receive an unexpected kindness. And my guess is that this act of hospitality wasn’t glamorous. But it sure was born out of love. “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13: 34-35).
We’re called to love and proclaim this gospel. Let’s not just proclaim it, let’s act it out through gestures of unexpected, unrequited kindness and hospitality. What will you do today to show hospitality?
Hospitality is at the heart of the Gospel. It is in fact the very message of the Gospel.
G—Generosity. To show hospitality to anybody, whether it is to your best friend or to the mailman, is a conscious choice that requires an action from your part.
O—Open hearts open doors. The warmest of welcome into your home is also a welcome into your soul. It’s acknowledging the other persons need for comfort and
S—Selfless. Jesus warned about showing hospitality only to those we know will pay us back with affection, status, or another invitation.
P—People. People. People. Hospitality is more than creating pretty looking spaces and beautiful table settings. It’s only relevant if there is
E—Everyone. Why limit yourself to those you know? Jesus ate and hung out with people who did not always agree with him and who had different interests than him.
Hospitality is also spiritual warfare. It’s going in the opposite spirit as individualism. Loneliness and lack of true meaningful relationships are the fruits of individualism.
Here are some ideas to get you brainstorming:
Think of your colleagues, the people who work closest with you. Why not give them room for their input and intentionally let them take the lead on certain projects? Bring them coffee or treat them to lunch, either in or out. Instead of talking about work, ask them to share about their spiritual life, their hobbies, etc. On Friday, right before the end of the work day, call all of your co-workers together for a little break. Pass the chips and salsa around while honoring those who’ve shown leadership, responsibility, generosity, patience, hard-work, etc, throughout the week. Make sure to use specific events and to celebrate people. Keep the criticism for another time.