PRACTICING HOSPITALITY

My precious wife and I have been on the receiving end of hospitality on so many occasions that we could not possibly recall and name all of them. Brothers and sisters in the Lord have treated us graciously and made us feel at home in several different nations, in a number of different states, and in a gazillion different congregations. We truly have been blessed. What a great family the church is, wherever it might be!

Am I one who practices hospitality? Do I have the reputation of being a person (or half of a couple) that demonstrates hospitality? Many of us feel like our lives are hectic. Our schedules are packed. We constantly feel exhausted. We struggle to carve out any time for doing things that we personally enjoy (“me time”), and our funds always seem to be right on the brink of being depleted. Sound familiar? Practice hospitality, you say? Who has time for that? Even if we somehow could find the time to show some hospitality, we probably would not have the energy or money to do it even if we wanted to. Again I ask, “Does this sound familiar?”

At some point, though, we need to take a look at what the Bible says about showing hospitality, correct? When Paul wrote a Spirit-guided message to the saints in Rome, part of his instruction about their personal lives included “not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality” (Romans 12:11-13). Those three verses contain eight distinct instructions. A fair question would be: “Which of those apply to me as a Christian?” Answer: each one of them. Just as my Lord wants me to rejoice in hope and be patient in tribulation, so He wants me to be “given to hospitality.” Well, in order for me to do that properly, I need to know what it entails.

What does “hospitality” mean? The Greek word in Romans 12:13 is “ /philonexia,” which simply means “love to strangers, hospitality” [Thayer, word no. 5381]. In English, what does “hospitality” indicate? Of course, in that word we see another word: “hospital.” “Hospitality” is defined as “the act or service of welcoming, receiving, hosting, or entertaining guests” [www.yourdictionary.com]. That is clear enough.

Going back to Romans 12:13, what does it mean to be “given to” hospitality? It sounds like one who has that disposition or habit – it is something that they practice. Actually, the Greek word for “be given to” is “ /di k ,” which often is translated into our English Bibles as some form of the word “persecute.” The Greek word behind “given to” means “to make to run or flee, put to flight, drive away; to run swiftly in order to catch a person or thing . . . to press on: figuratively of one who in a race runs swiftly to reach the goal; to pursue (in a hostile manner) . . . to persecute . . . without the idea of hostility, to run after, follow after . . . to pursue; to seek after eagerly” [Thayer, word no. 3177]. That is a lengthy explanation, but it lets us know that when it comes to showing hospitality, that is something that our God wants us to pursue/go after eagerly.

What about those who serve as the overseers of a local congregation? Should we expect them to be men who demonstrate hospitality? The Bible states that a bishop/elder must be hospitable (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7,8). In fact, a brother must show himself to be hospitable before he is selected to serve as one of the shepherds over the flock of God. It seems obvious that in order for a married brother to demonstrate hospitality, he is going to need the cooperation and assistance of his family in doing so.

Consider also the words of 1 Peter 4:9: “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” That instruction lies smack-dab between two other “one another” commands. First it is “have fervent love for one another” (4:8), then “be hospitable to one another” (4:9), followed by serve one another (4:10). In short, being hospitable to others is a way of showing love and the heart of a servant. All of us can love and serve, right? If we can love and serve, then we can practice hospitality.

Did you notice the part of 1 Peter 4:9 that points to how we should be hospitable to each other? Are you ready? We are supposed to practice hospitality without grumbling. Showing hospitality to one person or a large group of folks requires that we spend time, spend energy, and invest some finances or material goods. That is right: hospitality is costly. But, it is not something about which we should gripe. Offering hospitality is good for those whom we serve and it is good for us. It comes back as a blessing to us when we reach out a helping hand and share with others those things with which our Lord has blessed us. Jesus made it plain that we ought not show kindness to others with the thought that they someday will repay us (Luke 14:12-14). A loving heart does not look for payback.

Hospitality might be as simple as giving a person something to drink or eat. It could involve providing lodging, phone service, transportation, or assistance in getting settled into a new place. The challenge is not to think of a way to be hospitable. No, the real challenge is to practice it – not once, but as a habit.

— Roger D. Campbell

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