Hospitality - Love in Action
"Share with God's people who are in need. Practice Hospitality." Rom
The early Christians viewed themselves as part of a worldwide brotherhood and they knew they were a persecuted minority in a hostile world. "Little pockets of early Christians survived", writes C.S. Lewis, "because they cared exclusively for the love of the brethren and stopped their ears to the opinion of the Pagan society all round them."
Hospitality, therefore, became one of the most significant, practical
expressions of this worldwide family of brothers and sisters, and thus
became one of the birthmarks of early Christianity.
In today's world, it still often feels like we are a small minority in a hostile world. Friendship and the sacrifice of time are therefore just as important now as it was then. In the rush of today's modern lifestyle, hospitality is often the last thing on our list of priorities. Sharing a meal in your home means giving of your time, family, possessions, home, finances and privacy.
The rewards though are lasting and far reaching. The simple act of
hospitality can offer friendship, acceptance, fellowship, refreshment,
comfort and love in one of the richest and deepest ways possible for humans to understand. Unless we open our homes to one another, the reality of the local church as a close-knit family of loving brothers and sisters is only a theory.
Could it be that our churches today often feel cold and uncaring because hospitality is a dying art? How long do folk attend a church before they get invited over for a meal, or even a cup of tea? Could it be that we are losing that distinctive, the one that so ably characterised the early Church? How are we as Christians different from the pagan, cold and hostile world? Two hours of fellowship on a Sunday morning is hardly enough to grow in friendship and brotherly love. We need to get into one another's homes to build relationships and accountability. For new Christians, the home can be a launching pad for discipleship. What can create a more comfortable and secure environment after a morning of instruction at Church than the warm fellowship around a meal afterwards? What a perfect time for questions to be answered and new faith to be strengthened.
We were not created to live alone. Since the dawn of time and throughout history, the value of friendship has been constant. Friends can either provoke others to Holiness or encourage in wickedness. It is usually one or the other. How important it is then, for a new Christian to be surrounded by believers in a relaxing and accepting home environment. The more we grow as Christians, the more we desire holy companionship.
LOVE IN ACTION
Hospitality then, is love in action. It is not to be left to chance, but should be planned and pursued. It should not be perceived as a dread or burden but as a privilege and as part of service in His kingdom. Remember that you may be entertaining angels unawares!
The benefits for our children are immense as well. If our children grow up in a home where guests are frequent, they will in turn learn to serve and give of themselves as well. Their horizons will be stretched in ways that few other things can. Especially when hospitality is offered to people from other cultures, like visiting missionaries.
In today's world, a kind deed performed for a stranger is seen as a rarity, and even written about in the newspaper. Not too long ago these acts were considered part of civilised society. This is a symptom of cultural disintegration, and if we as Christians fail to understand and apply the commands of hospitality in the covenant community, our churches, like our culture, will eventually die. (Hebrews 13:1-2)
If you are feeling inadequate in this area, remember that giving hospitality does not need to be a threatening situation. It is not just for gourmet cooks, folk with perfect homes, and perfect children. It rather refers to our reception and treatment of others, and has little to do with our culinary skills. If our general disposition is one of self-absorption, irritability, disinterest and complaining then our inclination to invite others into our home will be nonexistent. Inviting someone for a meal after church for example can be as simple as a picnic in the back garden, a relaxing braai or enjoying a delicious stew that was prepared the day before.
The good news is that hospitality is an art that can be developed over time. Start by inviting friends or neighbours you have known for years, and then move on to inviting strangers and new Christians. (1 Peter 4:9-10)
For relationships to truly develop, we must ask the Lord for wisdom. We must ask for guidance and insight into the needs of others around us. You may be perfectly suited to minister to a unique need of a friend. The more we focus on others and the needs around us, the more we will concentrate on building lasting and meaningful relationships. If we give God our homes and our time, He will use them according to His plan. The rewards will be rich, lasting, deep, and will strengthen our church community in ways not thought possible.
May we be willing to be used in this fading art of hospitality.
Recommended further reading:
The Hidden Art of Homemaking, by Edith Schaeffer The Hospitality Commands, by Alexander Strauch
Face-to-Face: meditations on friendship and hospitality, by Steve Wilkins, Canon Press, Moscow, Idaho