Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Importance of Hospitality in Simple Church - Part 1

I can't emphasize enough the importance of hospitality as an element of simple church life.  If you have come from traditional church paradigms, your used to thinking of "the gift of hospitality" as referring to those women who laid out the coffee and donuts after a service, or put together a meal after a funeral.  Possibly, your experience might have included "home groups" that met for fellowship and possibly a Bible study where the host/hostess provided some snacks and drinks using her "gift of hospitality" on you.  That is NOT what I'm talking about!  That's a western, and completely water-downed version of what Biblical hospitality really is.  The Scriptures are clear that hospitality is far more than what we usually think it is, and it's not just the gift of a few women.  In fact, it has as much to do with men as with women - but that's another blog post for the future......

The real practice of hospitality makes people feel they belong. It makes people feel special, important, and and warmly welcomed into your life - not just your home!
 It's receiving strangers like they are family, and communicating through your words and actions that they are well worth your time and effort.

One time, on one of my trips to Brazil,  we stopped at a house to inquire if anyone wanted prayer in that home.  The residents were unfamiliar to us, but warmly welcomed us inside and quickly found us some chairs from a back room to sit upon. I gazed around at the simple surroundings.  This household was poor, and they had little beyond the very basics of life.  I expected them to tell us what we could pray and minister to them in, but that didn't seem to be their priority.  Instead, they were going to minister to us! Soon we had drinks in our hand, and we were informed that we were to stay for a meal. Meal?  Well, okay.   I thought the meal would be some leftovers that would be warmed up and served to us within a short time.  In fact, the host sent his older children to go a purchase some food and more drinks, and then proceeded to entertain us while his wife cooked us a full meal from scratch!  We spent an entire afternoon in the home, being treated like passing royalty, probably consuming the family's food budget for the month, with the meal they provided for us! 

I experienced the Biblical practice of hospitality that day, and it was more powerful than any sermon or teaching I'd had in years!  I felt loved, honored, valued, welcomed, and a part of their family.  Wow!  If we could get this practice operating and maturing in the Body of Christ - we would be powerful in communicating Christ to each other and the world.

In our western culture we have lost most of the centrality of hospitality to normal life. We have minimized it into cookies and coffee. In the Middle East, and certainly during the times of the Old and New Testament, hospitality was a central cultural norm of behavior and it was frequently illustrated and exhorted. For something to be talked about as much as it is in the Bible, it must be very important, powerful and a practice that we should be paying attention to.

 Let's look at a few Scriptural examples where love and hospitality are placed together:

  • "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;  not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;  rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,  contributing to the needs of the saints,  practicing hospitality. Romans 12: 10-13 (NASB)

  • " Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint.  As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." 1 Peter 4:8-10 (NASB)
  • "Let brotherly love continue. Don't forget to show hospitality to strangers, for in doing so, some have entertained angels without knowing it."  Hebrews 13:1-2 (NASB)

  Paul cites exercising hospitality as an important quality and practice for an elder in the church -

  • "an overseer/elder must be above reproach as God's steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to much wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable...." 1 Titus 1:7-8 (NASB)

  In the Old Testament God firmly establishes the importance of hospitality with many examples, here are just a couple:
  • Abraham welcoming the visiting strangers with a wonderful dinner
  • The Shunamite woman giving Elisha his own room and provided for him out of her poverty
  •  Lot offering hospitality to the visiting angels sent to Sodom 
  • Jethro towards Moses 
Hospitality was regarded by most nations of the ancient world as one of the chief virtues. The relationship between host and guest was sacred. (BTW -This is still true today in most Middle Eastern, South American, Native American and Asian cultures.) Our western emphasis on individuality and independence has drastically diminished our understanding and practice of this great and powerful aspect of life together.

When Jesus will demonstrate His hospitality in heaven one day, we will get the royal treatment and a full realization of the importance and powerful blessing of hospitality.  A 'welcome home' banquet hosted by The Son and The Father Themselves, giving us their hospitality in the true way it was designed  Why?  Simply because He loves us.  He wants to show us our value and worth to Him on that day.  Can you imagine it?  We will actually be served by the King Himself - our Host!  I don't know about you, but that simply blows my mind! 

In the meantime, maybe we should be exercising and finding opportunities to grow in this wonderful expression of powerful communication.

In the next blog post, I'll give some ideas and examples of hospitality practiced within the Body of Christ, and with those who don't know Jesus yet just to spur you on "towards love and good deeds"!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Katie, for the great reminder that hospitality implies relationship and relationship implies investment. I look forward to reading some practical ways to practice hospitality in your next post.