Note: I wrote this before the COVID-19 pandemic, but we still need to find ways to practice hospitality in creative ways despite the current troubles. Social distancing cannot mean social disconnection.
Jesus taught us: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.1 Christ taught and demonstrated that loving other people, especially underdogs, is a true sign of our love for God and our desire to be Christ-like. Hospitality is welcoming and caring for “strangers.” It is a genuine and effective way to show love for others. Jesus tells us in Matthew chapter 25 that whatever we do for the least of people, He counts it as done for Him.
This ends our short study on this topic. You can read Hospitality Ministry Part 1.
More Key Bible Passages on Hospitality
Leviticus 19:33-34 When a foreigner (outsider, newcomer, stranger, alien, non-citizen) resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
Isaiah 58:6-7 This is the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke. Share your food with the hungry and provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, clothe them, and do not turn away from your own flesh and blood.
Hebrews 13:1-2 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it (alluding to Genesis 19:1-3).
1 Peter 4:8-9 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins (quoting Proverbs 10:12). Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
Further Practical Thoughts On Hospitality
Yes meals can be costly and we will have to surrender time and energy that might have been used for other things. But since the Lord shares Himself so generously with us, let us share our hearts, homes, and lives with others. Christ said, “Freely you have received; freely give….It is more blessed to give than to receive.”2
Within Jesus’ church family, all of us feel honored to be invited and included by others. But instead of waiting for others to ask us, why not get out of our comfort zone and take the initiative? The Bible says that church elders must be hospitable, so they ought to set the example.3 But God also commands members to recognize and respect our elders.4 So instead of waiting for church elders to come for a pastoral visit, why not invite them over for a meal or a snack?
What should we do if we invite people over and they have already made other plans? We can offer them another date in the near future. When possible, invite visitors to church for the following Lord’s Day, giving them another reason to come back to our church and giving you time to prepare. If people decline our offers, be polite and move on to others. Don’t take rejections personally. Maybe they are not used to friendliness in churches or have been burned by others. Also remember how often Christ was rejected.5
Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, in The Gospel Comes with a House Key, says: “Our post-Christian neighbors need to hear and see and taste and feel authentic Christianity, hospitality spreading from every Christian home that includes neighbors in prayer, food, friendship, childcare, dog walking, and all the daily matters upon which friendships are built.”
Keep It Simple
Never assume that people won’t want to come to our homes or that our food and furniture are unfit. Elaborate, fancy meals are great but unnecessary. And they demand too much time to prepare. Keep it simple and easy. Focus on our guests instead of the meal. This relieves us of pressure to impress or perform. When the host or hostess is casual and relaxed, not tense and anxious, everyone has a more enjoyable time. If we have a good sense of humor, that puts people at ease. Ecclesiastes 3:4 says that there is a time to laugh. Cheerfulness helps people to love you and your family, more than what you have or serve.
Be warm and gracious, striving to get to know your guests. And don’t do all the talking. Be quiet sometimes and willing to listen. “Sometimes all a person wants is an empathetic ear; all they need is to talk it out. Just offering a listening ear and an understanding heart for their suffering can be a big comfort.”6 Be interested in them as God’s image bearers whether they are already Christians or not. Let them know that their thoughts and needs are important to you. Ask friendly questions but don’t be like the Spanish Inquisition.
Use the Lord’s Day Wisely
On any occasion, but especially on Sundays after church, speak freely of God’s constant goodness and help to us in His creation, providence, and saving grace. Lead in a Scripture reading, with explanation, hymn signing, and prayer. You don’t need to know everything about the Bible, but do share and discuss what you do know and how Christ has blessed you. Make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.7 To minister to others best, we need to be growing ourselves Christ’s grace and knowledge. Talk about the sermon in a natural way, but don’t “roast” the pastor. Talk about Sunday School lessons and Scripture readings. Jesus frequently came to the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, not simply to build a friendship, but to instruct the family and others in the Scriptures. We can imitate Him in this but beware being “know-it-alls.” That can be obnoxious.
Remember that “doing missions” is not really a matter of location. We do missionary work whenever we serve God and neighbors just as we are, just where we are. Only a few can serve Christ in “paid” ministry. But all of us have the privilege and blessing of proclaiming and practicing the gospel through loving strangers. Willingness to be available to the Lord and others and following through makes us useful in God’s kingdom. We can each welcome others to see, hear, and experience Jesus’ love for sinners. And like most things, hospitality becomes easier as a way of life the more we practice it.
Alistair Begg of Truth for Life reminds us that Christian learning is for Christian living. May God help us be hearers and doers of His word!8
Notes (various translations): 1 Mark 12:29-31. 2 Matt 10:8; Acts 20:35. 3 1 Tim 3:2, Titus 1:8. 4 1 Thess 5:12-13. 5 Examples: Matt 8:34; 21:42; Mark 6:3; 12:10; Luke 4:28-29; 17:25; John 1:11; 5:43; 12:48. 6 Robert T. Bennett. 7 Titus 2:10. 8 Allusion to James 1:22.