The end of all things is near; therefore, be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining.
Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. (New Revised Standard Version)
One of the most practical and biblical ways of demonstrating love is through hospitality.
Hospitality, at its heart, is an invitation to come into my home and into my life. It is a ministry of acceptance, encouragement, restoration, and healing.
The loving work of hospitality “covers a multitude of sins” through the power of influence. When we have face-to-face conversations around the table, it prevents us from engaging in sins that would otherwise be committed if left to ourselves.
Because the end of all things is near, we need our wits about us through a determined focus on prayer, love, and hospitality.
The word “hospitality” literally means, “love of the stranger.” I invite someone whom I do not know very well into my home and befriend them. This is what Jesus did for us. Although we were all estranged from God and on the outside, Jesus came to eat with us.
“Listen! I stand at the door and knock; if any hear my voice and open the door, I will come into their house and eat with them, and they will eat with me.” (Revelation 3:20, GNT)
Jesus invites us into the life of God; and so, we are to invite others into our lives. Jesus has so closely identified with his people that when we practice hospitality, we are inviting Jesus in. In fact, we may not realize that some people we host are angels:
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2, NIV)
Inviting another person into my home and my heart takes time and effort. Doing it without grumbling is a necessity.
In an ideal world, we always receive something back for our work of hospitality – an invitation from the other person, or, at least, a simple thank you. That does not always happen; it must not be the driving reason why we are generous.
Hospitality is a work of love which originates from a heart that has been touched by the hospitality of God. Our earthly hospitality is a form of saying “thank you” to God for the grace given to us.
Complaints break into the house like unwanted burglars when we expect to receive, and do not. If you receive another person as though they were Christ himself, grumbling will likely be far from you. Instead, there will be rejoicing over the opportunity to serve Jesus.
In the New Testament world, a concrete expression of love to other believers in Jesus was providing food and shelter for Christians traveling throughout the Roman Empire. Often, the traveling strangers were itinerant evangelists spreading the message of the gospel from place to place.
Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth. (3 John 5-8, NIV)
At times, believers were deprived of necessities due to occasional waves of persecution. The people Peter addressed were mostly Jewish Christians. As they faced persecution in Jerusalem, they fled to geographical places dominated by pagan Gentiles.
As refugees, they were often poor and needy; and the townspeople where they went were not hospitable. So, they had to rely on the love and hospitality of those believers they could connect with who had the means to help.
There is a great need for hospitality in our world.
Many American’s circle of friends is shrinking. According to one study, the number of people who said they had no one to talk to about important matters has more than doubled in the past 10 years. Over 35 million Americans now live alone (28% of all households).
Hospitality cuts both ways for us. We are to invite the lonely into our hearts and homes; and the lonely are to invite others into their hearts and homes, instead of waiting for somebody to just show up.
Food is to hospitality what weightlifting is to bodybuilders; you really need food, meals, and the sharing that goes with it to make a difference in another’s life.
In biblical times, eating a meal together was a sacred affair. To have another person in your house, sitting around your table, was a way of communicating acceptance, care, and friendship. That’s why the religious leaders had such difficulty seeing Jesus eat with “sinners.” Jesus was unequivocally loving and accepting of such persons.
Looking at our world, it can often be a sad place. We may wonder:
- Can people of different races live in peace?
- Can Democrats find common ground with Republicans?
- Can a Christian family carry on a civil friendship with neighbors down the street far from Christianity?
- Can people worlds apart from each other get along?
The early church did. And they did it without all the stuff we have – through the simplest tool of the home.
No matter our gifts and abilities, each one of us can be hospitable. Something mystical happens at a dinner table that does not happen anywhere else – it opens the door to true community.
While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:26-28, NRSV)
For the Christian, eating and ingesting bread and wine serves as a tangible way of understanding what life is to be like. We take Jesus into the depths of our lives. We ingest him, that is, we engage in an intimate relationship whereby the two of us can never be separated.
We are meant for life together, to enjoy eating and drinking together. True life is sharing both our resources and our hearts with one another.
Loving God, thank you for your generosity. I am a stranger in this world, yet you invite me to be your guest. You lavishly offer me your hospitality and welcome me into your family. You invite me to share in the abundance of your kingdom. Help me remember that when I offer hospitality to others, I am receiving Christ into my home.
Gracious God, I open my heart to those who are wounded; those who have wounded me; those who are outcasts; and to all who are searching. I want my everyday ordinary life to please you. I am grateful that there is always room at your Table; through Jesus, my Lord. Amen.