I love hospitality. You say that word and I will get happy on the inside. Something in me has always leaned into a major aspect of hospitality that I believe will burn in me for the rest of my days…valuing and caring for the needs of others, welcoming people, making them feel at home… Oh I could just go on! But I’d rather not, I’d rather just do it. And let you read this or watch the video haha and be moved to open yourself up again to another.
I studied hospitality last week on one of many levels, seeking to convey one of its many layers in a helpful way. (Below is the script I wrote for this video)
Where authenticity and vulnerability can have no filters applied.
Where the ones closest to you experience you at your best… and your worst.
But much more than a physical space, home is belonging.
We experience this firsthand through hospitality.
Hospitality has been cheaply thought of as merely hosting a dinner party once a year or the hospitality industry that makes your daily cappuccino. But hospitality is far more than this.
Hospitality is a theology of recognition, where, through simple acts, we convey the truth that wayward sinners are made in the image of God, where we say to those who might doubt their worth or purpose, ‘I see you! You are welcome here…pull up a chair’
Hospitality is much more than providing a meal or a place to sleep for a night. It is a tool that has the capacity to meet the core need in the human heart – a need for belonging. Hospitality is an answer that tells the lonely they are seen, and, more than hungry bellies, it feeds starving souls.
Hospitality is a welcoming; an open embrace, ready to receive anyone, especially strangers and those who cannot reciprocate, and inviting any who has need into one’s heart: open access to both the mess and the lovely.
Hospitality is what nourishes, nurtures and sustains life and beauty.
It allows you, whether the host or the receiver, to take one step closer to coming home…home to your true self, who God created you to be.
Hospitality in the Old Testament
All of Scripture is about the overarching story of God’s hospitality and every pattern has core themes which are developed throughout Scripture, ultimately with the intentional purpose of leading us to Jesus.
The theme of hospitality starts in Genesis where we see its origins stemming from the very heart of God Himself.
After breathing life into his most prized creation, relationship and love in bodily form,
28 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”
29 Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. 30 And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life.” And that is what happened. (Gen 1:28-30).
The creation narrative is a picture of God’s hospitality toward us. He gave Adam and Eve EVERYTHING they could ever need or want. Abundant provision, beauty, and joy. Everything that would nurture them, give them life and sustain them. “The most gracious Host in the world is welcoming you into His castle, ‘Look! It’s all yours. Everything!’”
God’s hospitality illustrated in the creation narrative was counter-cultural.
His creating a space in which he desired them to be fruitful and increase counteracted other stories in ancient times of gods in Mesopotamia who were known to discourage multiplication with plagues and infertility. When we see God richly providing food for his people this counteracted Mesopotamian mythology in which the people were expected to provide their own food.
We encounter a loving God that wants his creation to flourish and he wants to provide and care for them.
All it took was one seed of deception, one moment of question for humanity to believe in Genesis 3 that their Host was withholding good from them, and it was up to them to get it for themselves.
And just like that, we have all since been birthed into a broken Home in need of hospitality.
After this exile of humanity, of being forced to leave the only perfect home of complete intimacy with God into a not yet redeemed earth, we will see throughout the rest of the biblical narrative God wooing us back to himself as he offers and extends hospitality to those who would enter. Offering us the hope of the future, in which he will bring the new heaven and new earth…but until then, we are all in a constant state of exile, including the Church, for we are not yet home.
This redemption of Home is bigger than just you and me, it is for the whole world.
God told Abraham, the father of our faith in Genesis 12:3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.
God’s plan was to use Abraham’s family and future descendants to show hospitality to every other nation.
In Genesis 18 we see a picture of the hospitable heart of Abraham:
GOD appeared to Abraham at the Oaks of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance of his tent. It was the hottest part of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing. He ran from his tent to greet them and bowed before them.
3-5 He said, “Master, if it please you, stop for a while with your servant. I’ll get some water so you can wash your feet. Rest under this tree. I’ll get some food to refresh you on your way, since your travels have brought you across my path.”
They said, “Certainly. Go ahead.”
6 Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. He said, “Hurry. Get three cups of our best flour; knead it and make bread.”
7-8 Then Abraham ran to the cattle pen and picked out a nice plump calf and gave it to the servant who lost no time getting it ready. Then he got curds and milk, brought them with the calf that had been roasted, set the meal before the men, and stood there under the tree while they ate.
It is here we see Abraham with no reservations, no hesitation, no thought of self and no inclination to see these men as inconveniences. He held nothing back in his embrace and his care.
It was AFTER Abraham’s extravagant act of hospitality toward the three strangers that a renewal of the covenant promise of God came forth.
Hospitality is shown throughout the Old Testament time and again, with Lot in Genesis 19, Gideon in Judges 6, Manoah in Judges 13.
Hospitality was embedded in their culture.
In Leviticus 19:33-34, we see that hospitality was an expectation of the Jews.
When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don’t take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own. Remember that you were once foreigners in Egypt. I am GOD, your God.
Equal in status to the command “love your neighbour as yourself”, equality among the diverse classes was a law the Jews, though set apart as they were, kept, because, as God reminded them, they were once foreigners in need of God’s hospitality.
Consider also at the phrase, I am the Lord Your God, who brought you out of Egypt.
This is echoing his words that he stated in Exodus 20:2 right before he delivered the terms of the covenant- right before he would state “you shall have no other gods before Me.”
It was common in their time that with treaties being made, prior to the terms, the overlord would state the acts they did for the people, and this is what Yahweh does here.
Look! Look at what the Lord has done for you, and, as we will see later in Scripture, because of the new covenant we are in Christ, we can do to others as he did for the Israelites in the Old Testament.
Hospitality in the New Testament
Love of strangers in Greek.
To love a stranger implies a willingness to open yourself up and give of yourself whatever is needed, without consideration of yourself first.
Jesus Christ set us the ultimate example of receiving the stranger. He did this everywhere He went, and He preached it, too.
As the Israelites were reminded that they can love the stranger because they were once estranged, we are shown again in the New Testament the hospitality of God in which Jesus comes to embrace us and offer us Home in Himself…
Jesus again found himself with a hungry crowd on his hands. He called his disciples together and said, “This crowd is breaking my heart. They have stuck with me for three days, and now they have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they’ll faint along the way—some of them have come a long distance.”
4 His disciples responded, “What do you expect us to do about it? Buy food out here in the desert?”
5 He asked, “How much bread do you have?”
Here we see Jesus’ compassion that led to his hospitality and the example he sets on how to do it. We needn’t get overwhelmed by one’s need or the size of it, or even so consider our lack or inabilities, for the bounty of Christ is always ready. He drew power and strength from the Father through the Holy Spirit. We, like he was trying to show the disciples, can do the same.
In Matthew 25:40 Jesus tells his disciples that whenever we quench someone’s thirst or satisfy their hunger or meet them in their prison cell or care for them in their illness, He considers this as being done to Him! We then, as it were, act as the one who hosts the Lord, what an honour! Later in Colossians 3:23 we see this encouraged again – that whatever we do, we do it as unto the Lord.
“If ever there has been a stranger in need, someone completely excluded and hopeless, fully dependent on the grace of another – that is us. We were out in the cold, victims of our own folly, freezing to death from the coldness of our own hearts. And all throughout history, God opens the door, rescues us, and welcomes us back into relationship through sheer, inexplicable grace.”
Jesus’ sacrificial death was the ultimate act of hospitality. Romans 5:6-11 tells that story well.
Verse 6 says, “For when the time was right, the Anointed One came and died to demonstrate his love for sinners who were entirely helpless, weak, and powerless to save themselves.”
2 Corinthians 5:18 tells us as Christ has reconciled us to himself, he has given us the ministry of reconciling others back to Him, too.
The church in Corinth, as well as most churches in Rome were very hospitable.
Martin William Mittelstadt said of the Early Church, “Hospitality was no small matter for early Christians. Jesus both gave and received hospitality generously. For Luke, failure in hospitality leads to a fractured community and, if left unattended, hinders kingdom exploits. From the gospels, Christians are called to the practice of hospitality for the sake of themselves, their neighbours, and the kingdom.”
Hospitality starts within us.
Phil. 2:3-4 says, “Be free from pride-filled opinions, for they will only harm your cherished unity. Don’t allow self-promotion to hide in your hearts, but in authentic humility put others first and view others as more important than yourselves. 4 Abandon every display of selfishness. Possess a greater concern for what matters to others instead of your own interests.”
Paul writes the Church in Philippi, and he desires that this be their foundation, the bedding of their heart, and he would say when God’s people are one in heart and mind, they will seek to put others’ needs first.
We see Paul also encourage the church to actively pursue hospitality, indicating it should be a constant attitude, action and way of life.
In Romans 12:13 he instructs,
13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
11-13 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fuelled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
This is what an outworking of love looks like.
As we ourselves are fuelled and set aflame by the love of our Saviour and most gracious Host, we too, from a full cup, can eagerly pour ourselves out for others in the act of hospitality.
Romanss 15:7 instructs us by saying to welcome one another as Christ as welcomed you.
In a culture where it was easy for Jewish Christians to look down upon Gentile Christians and vice versa, Paul writes and urges them to embrace each other as family, even amongst diversity.
How wide could our embrace of people be if we didn’t cast a judgment on anyone but saw every person as loved of God and therefore, to be loved by us.
If you read 1 Tim. 3:1-2 & Titus 1:7-8 it is commanded also that all leaders must be hospitable.
In 1 Timothy, we see discussed the type of character that should be evident in a pastor and church leader’s life. The way a leader conducts their home life is extremely important and being hospitable to strangers was no exception. Especially since travellers would frequently come through and need a place to stay. It was expected that a church leader would freely open his home to them.
Hebrews 13:1-2 says to keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
While hospitality to strangers was an expectation of believers and church leaders, it went without saying that they would be blessed by doing this (as their Father Abraham had been).
“In the ancient world it was expensive to stay overnight at an inn, and such establishments usually had poor reputations. Thus, an aspect of Jewish and early Christian piety, as well as etiquette in the broader Greco-Roman culture, involved taking people in for an evening.”
By their doing this, with the foundation of Christ’s command to love our neighbours as we love ourselves, they would bring joy and refreshment to weary travellers.
In 3 John, we see the need and the blessing it is to show hospitality to those who are ministers of the gospel : “Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters,[a] even though they are strangers to you. 6 They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God. 7 It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. 8 We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.”
Hospitality is not a gift reserved for a select few, it is a command and a way of being that, as we are growing into Love and more into the image of Christ, each follower of Jesus will be hospitable.
1 Peter 4:8-9 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
Stemming from a time of great persecution for the Early Christians, as well as a time where they believed the return of Christ was near, Peter’s encouragement for them to love each other deeply was needed in a time where their current trials and testings could cause them to be stressed or overwhelmed.
For authentic Love is expressed in hospitality. it is a command, but not one that can just be followed, it’s a command to BE a hospitable person, it must flow from the heart.
John Piper says of hospitality, “It is not just a command that can be legalistically fulfilled with a quota of guests. It is a command to be a certain kind of person, namely, the kind that doesn’t resent having to be hospitable. The kind of person who doesn’t look at the extra dishes and bedding and bother—and grumble. “Practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another.” Without murmuring. As the next verse (4:10) implies, let your hospitality be an extension or an overflow of God’s hospitality to you. Be a good steward of God’s grace.”
Even in James we see that true faith must be evidenced by hospitality.
4 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?
Why is there a command to be hospitable? It has to do with ‘brotherly love’ – It’s what love looks like.
The church in Galatia was encouraged that in their caring for those around them, to not grow weary, for even for them a harvest would spring forth out of the sacrificial love they’ve sown.
Lastly, John’s vision in Revelation 21 gives us insight into our future hope:
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
God will at last bring our eternal Home with Him to us. The final extension of his hospitality, where we are invited to the ultimate wedding feast with Jesus Christ, our Host who bears the scars marking his deep love for us in his hands, feet, and side.
Where we come Home to Him and to our true selves, where at last, his redeemed people are fully restored and finally home.
What of hospitality today?
We live in a society that craves privacy and lack of involvement. There is a huge deficit in our culture in that it lacks genuine, deep relationships.
Too wrapped up in our own worlds, we hardly notice the people around us, let alone having an inclination to reach out to anyone in need.
In a time where we’ve never been so connected to information and of such high calibre, we have never been so disconnected and so empty, devoid of a quality life.
Due to an unending state of busyness – our hectic work lives, our families’ bustle of activities, the expectations of society to keep up with the latest events and trends have made home for the western Christian a place of peace where they don’t want anyone else intruding and disturbing that peace. But I’m not simply talking about our physical homes, though this is true. But we have essentially become our own personal and private fortresses. It could almost go without saying that most people do not welcome people easily into their physical homes where amidst affluence and abundance we became prideful about our homes and let our fear of man (and man’s judgement on our houses, decor, & food) override our Biblical command to practice hospitality.
But, as difficult as it has become, we must embrace Jesus’ hospitable heart toward us once again to then extend his invitation again to others.
Exposure of oneself has never been so readily achievable, and yet people are only showing what they deem worthy to be viewed,
While we are in a time of having more access than ever before to a person at the click of a button, people are more hidden than ever.
With every post and every image, they are crying out, “see me. know me. want me.”
We change our worlds not just by starting a successful ministry, writing a hit worship song, etc. but by BEING representatives of Jesus in this world…including, and especially, in our own homes.
The extent of our reach toward others is seen in our capacity and ability to love and receive broken, messy people into our own fragile, imperfect lives…and homes.
Hospitality is so much more than just inviting people to your home.
It is inviting people to yourself.
To see you, know you, and receive of Jesus from you.
I’ll end with a challenge from St. Benedict:
“You want to be open, you want to let others into your life – what do you do? Whatever plan you devise, one thing is undeniable: such a change starts within… Here is the core of hospitality: May I know you better? Will you come closer, please? No, it will not be easy, but make no mistake about it, your life depends on this saving stranger coming to you and stretching your tight little heart.”
This is radical hospitality.
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