In the same breath, Peter spoke of fervency in Christian love, and gracious hospitality (1 Pet.4:8-9). He wrote at a time when brethren found themselves persecuted and the need was great to look after each other. Perhaps the peace of our own land today lulls us into thinking, that hospitality is not to be taken as seriously as it was in Peter’s day. Yet the Hebrew writer said, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers” (Heb.13:2).
Why do we need to practice hospitality today? Because many Christians are lonely, the elderly need some attention, new Christians need to experience love, the harried need peaceful times of personal attention, and everyone needs to feel the strength of a loving Christian home into which they’ve been invited.
Congregations may think of themselves as friendly and welcoming, but the lack of hospitality weakens our claim. Handshakes and brief conversations are helpful to newcomers, yet they often do not return. Hospitality delivers a whole new level of interest and care.
God commanded His people in both the Old Testament and the New to look after people, to bring them home, feed them, and show them godly love. Abraham, Gideon and Manoah even fed angels. Philip housed Paul (Acts 21:8-9). Peter’s mother-in-law fed Jesus along with four of his disciples (Mark 1:29-31). Martha, Mary and Lazarus welcomed the Lord into their home and fed Him before He entered Jerusalem, on his way to the cross. Jesus Himself was always welcoming people, feeding them with food and the truth.
People may not remember a particular church service, but theydo remember your hospitality. Years ago, as a missionary visiting supporters, I remember one eldership that escorted me to a church member’s home where we enjoyed a great dinner provided by a hard-working woman who welcomed us all. Her home was not large, and we sat in close configuration around the table. I still remember the conversation, the good will, and even what we ate – although I don’t remember the events of the church meeting that evening. There’s something about hospitality that nourishes not only the body, but the soul. It is love in action and proof of who we claim to be. It is Jesus working through us.
Hospitality is easily neglected. We are busy people, even on Sundays. “I don’t have time.” We think our homes are not big enough, nice enough, or even clean enough to have people home. We get in the habit of NOT doing it, and that habit is hard to break. Maybe you feel that you cannot cook well. Others don’t want to upset their pets. And Covid-19 has certainly forced us to keep people away. These objections are easy to respond to but the scriptures say it best when they encourage this work of love, commending and even command it.
It’s also easier for some Christians to practice hospitality than others. I grew up in a home where people were welcome at our table. My parents often housed visiting preachers for days at a time. My wife’s experience is the same. So perhaps it is easier for some Christians to open their homes than it is for others who may not have been raised to practice it. But early Christians were urged to learn its graces, and they did. So can we.
I believe that God commands kind, genuine, loving hospitality because that’s the way He is Himself. Through Jesus, we see Him in action. He cares for people, feeding all men. And He plans to bring us all home someday to live with Him.
As Jesus promised: “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3). God practices hospitality, and we can learn to practice it too.
One of the gems of hospitality is what you gain when you do it. People open up and talk more freely, and you get to know them much better. You will learn things about your guests that you would not have learned otherwise. Good food makes people happy, including the ones providing it. And the next time you see them on a Sunday morning, you will feel closer.
“Above all things, keep fervent in your love for one another…. Be hospitable to one another without complaint” (1 Pet.4:8-9). The church needs it. Strangers need it. You need it.