Everyone loves a good party. Getting together with friends for a movie, game night, watching a ball game, or just a meal can be the highlight of your week. It is fun to have everyone pitching in to do the same thing. Whether it is to cheer for the home team or everyone bringing their favorite food for dinner, a party gives us an opportunity to show that we are not alone.
Though the activities bring us together and are the emphasis on the front end, they eventually fade into the background. What really matters is that everyone is together. It is the friendships that really get us in the door; not the activities. At the end of the evening, it is the time spent with friends that we remember for weeks to come; not who won the game.
All of this reveals –even when we don’t know it—the biblical idea of hospitality. The friendships that we have as believers can be described in many ways. In the church where I was raised, we often talked about fellowship or having a fellowship. It was the descriptor for our relationships and the activity of them. But, too often, we have simply let it stop at the idea of bringing a casserole to the church building for a Sunday lunch. The Bible’s idea of Christian fellowship and hospitality goes beyond just meeting up at the same place.
The Christian life is one built on redemptive relationships. Our relationship with God is broken, so He sends Jesus to mend it by His death and resurrection. Relationships between believers constantly need help to be refreshed. Just look at the apostles, early church, and even Paul and Peter if you need examples. They needed help and so do we. On top of all of that, Christians should be great ambassadors to those who are still lost instead of the mere protestors against culture. Too often, we view our lost neighbors as annoyances and people in other countries as our enemies. We need a change. Let’s start seeing other through the lens of eternity where no one is an interruption and people are a blessing. No lost person is an enemy but a slave to their sin. It is why we need to be ready for an open house lifestyle.
The Bible is a story of hospitality. God creates a home for Adam and Eve in Genesis. He has prepared a new home for us in Revelation. Everything between those bookends of the Bible consistently reveals God’s heart for welcoming home the straggler, the stranger, and the struggler. Christian hospitality should drive us to do the same. When fellowship is more than church socials, we will follow Paul’s directive in Romans 12 to “pursue hospitality.”
Fellowship is hanging out casually but that’s not all it is. Hospitality is more than just having the spiritual gift of casseroles. We must go after those who are lonely and without hope. Hospitality is done with the memory that we were once the stranger who was offered a dinner invitation.
Both the Old Testament and the New Testament are filled with teachings about and descriptions of hospitality shown by the people of God. Just two examples are found in Leviticus and the Gospel of Luke.
In Leviticus, we find this as part of the Law; the perfect standard of living. “When a foreigner lives with you in your land, you must not oppress him. You must regard the foreigner who lives with you as the native-born among you. You are to love him as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt; I am Yahweh your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34). The spiritual implication is deep. Once enslaved as foreigners inside of an evil empire, the Israelites were freed by God. Now, they are being led to people who are outsiders to God’s kingdom in a way that they would have wanted while in Egypt. When you remember how your life was once lived as an outsider, then it is easier to include those who feel like an outcast.
Luke’s Gospel tells the story of a Pharisee that invited Jesus to dinner at his home. While there, a sinful woman came in and washed Jesus’ feet with precious ointment (Luke 7:36-50). The Pharisees were offended that Jesus would let the woman touch Him. Jesus was more greatly offended that they were so dull. The Pharisees did not want to show hospitality to sinful woman but Jesus allowed a space for her. Hospitality is going to be messy so be ready for what might happen because of it.
Pride, busyness, selfishness, and fear will all dissuade you from showing hospitality. I hope that you will instead look at the exhausted single mother that needs a break. Find the hurting the teen who just needs a listening ear. Seek out the immigrant needing a friend. Let the new family in the neighborhood that they actually belong here. Take the widows and widowers in to your circle of friendship like they truly matter. The antidote to all of our selfish sins of hiding out from the world is to imitate the radical generosity of Jesus. Hospitality becomes a missional discipline when we welcome the stranger into our homes so they can see a reflection of grace alive in us.
Now that we are insiders, let’s go get the outsiders. All around us, people are asking a simple question that scares them to answer honestly: “Do I fit in here?” By Christ’s grace, the answer can be yes. But they don’t know it until you invite them into your life for friendship that goes beyond the surface tension conversations about the latest movie. Hospitality is not just feeding someone from your table. Hospitality invites them into your life.