It's sometimes difficult for me to write about hospitality. In as much as it is something most churches speak about regularly, I feel as if it has become the latest buzz word amongst believers, but without a depth of understanding and practice.
So, I’d like to set a basic premise for how we can create a common understanding and practice of the word hospitality. Before I begin to define my premise, there are two scriptural references I use to regularly remind me of hospitality.
The first scripture reference is Genesis 1:27 NIV, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
The second scripture reference is Galatians 3:28 NIV, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Both of these scriptures, as well as the chapters they are a part of, are what I personally believe every Christian needs to internalize in order to practice hospitality daily. Notice I said practice, and not just recite or be knowledgeable about. They pack a lot of power when our values, assumptions and norms are being continuously challenged.
Now that we have reviewed the scriptures, let’s answer five basic questions which will create an understanding of how we can practice what we believe about Christian Hospitality:
- What is a Simple Definition of Hospitality?: Hospitality is the practice of receiving and interacting with people in a generous way. Hospitality begins in your relationship and identity with God. Despite popular belief that hospitality begins when someone enters the physical doors of a church building or when they enter your home, these are actually outcomes of hospitality.
- What Does Hospitality Involve?: Hospitality involves meeting the basic needs of guests and strangers as you are led by the Holy Spirit. These needs can be physical, mental and relational. Being led by the Holy Spirit helps us to not feel astounded by the vast number of needs which are present in our world, while keeping us forever mindful of what we need to continuously be in prayer about.
- Will Hospitality Help Me To Grow?: Hospitality practiced daily will lead to individuals and church communities being continuously pushed outside of their comfort zones. Brian James, the author of Biblical Hospitality and The Problem of the Caste System wrote, “Some of the very things biblical hospitality supports, may sometimes lead to persecution, misunderstandings or conflict with others. As the body of Christ, we’ve become comfortable with certain types of hospitality, while avoiding others. I could define some of those for you, but I believe this is a good area for every believer to challenge themselves and grow in.
- What are Biblical Examples of Hospitality?:
- Jesus Christ and the woman at the well
- Jesus Christ and Zacchaeus
- Jesus Christ disagreeing with his disciples on sending the crowd away to purchase food and his actions thereafter
- Rahab and the spies
- Elisha and the Widow
- Naomi’s interaction with Ruth
- Peter and Cornelius
- What are Some Outcomes of Hospitality?: Here are a few of outcomes of hospitality.
- Helps us to honor and obey God by serving those around us
- Contributes to the physical, emotional and relational needs of others
- Demonstrates and builds peace and goodwill cross culturally
- Trains us to hear from the Holy Spirit for and about others
- Demonstrates the truth about who God is even if we never utter a word of scripture to those we are being hospitable to
- Increases our faith
- Builds social equality and helps to heal social biases
- Increases our understanding of the challenges others are facing which we may not have otherwise known
- Increases our cultural intelligence
- Helps us to understand the challenges of our immediate neighbors, our wider community and the world around us
- Contributes in overcoming problems found in so many churches and communities
- Enhances evangelistic outreach
The ultimate purpose of hospitality is to minister to all those who are around us, or who we encounter moment by moment. Every believer has the gift of hospitality, but not every believer chooses to practice it each and every day. A church building’s success in hospitality, internal and external to its four walls, is based on how well the majority of its members practice hospitality before they attend services. When you sum it all up, I believe hospitality is God’s way of giving us many opportunities to invest in the lives of those around us, while we learn more about our identity in Him.