Whitefield Academy Blog
Modern Hospitality: Living Like the Early Church
What Is It?
The word “hospitality” comes from the Latin root “hospes” meaning guest, visitor, stranger or host. This root makes up other words like hospital, hospice, and hotel, bringing to mind the idea of welcoming people. We’re reminded in 1 Corinthians 13 that “If I give away all that I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” If we’re seeking to honor God by being hospitable, we cannot separate it from love, so I would suggest that our working definition of hospitality should be “love in action, particularly welcoming people into our homes and our lives.”
But It’s Not One of My “Gifts”
Hospitality is often recognized as a “spiritual gift,” something that certain people are good at. But interestingly enough, that is not Biblical. Scripture has a few lists of “spiritual gifts.” In Romans 12, Paul lists several including prophecy, service, teaching, leading and more. He then follows this list with the “marks of the true Christian,” urging the believers to “Rejoice in hope, be patient in affliction, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” And in 1 Peter 4, Peter adds, “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.” So hospitality is not a gift, but something we are all supposed to use our gifts to practice.
Who Should Practice It?
If we’re honest, when we think about hospitality, we typically think of women as the ones who are hospitable. But Scripture is clear that hospitality is for both sexes. In the qualifications for overseers or elders in the church, Paul says they must be “the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…” etc. (1 Timothy 3:1-5). Women and men, but also rich and poor, big houses and little apartments. All believers are called to practice hospitality.
To Whom Should We Be Hospitable?
We can’t ignore the early church when we’re talking about welcoming people into our homes. The early church in Rome modeled what hospitality toward fellow believers should look like. We have the beautiful example of Lydia, urging weary Paul to stay in her home (Acts 16:11-15). We can imagine new believers faithfully acting out Paul’s plea to “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” on a daily basis with food and lodging (Romans 12:13). Today, this practically looks like housing missionaries and foreign exchange students, bringing meals to sick families and new mamas, consistently inviting fellow believers to our tables, watching children when parents need help, visiting the elderly and the house-bound, and being a covenant family to believers who have no family.
When considering how to treat non-believers, Paul entreats us to “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12: 14,15). The writer of Hebrews declares, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares… Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 1,2,16). Hospitality to non-believers or strangers can be scary. We think of our children, young and impressionable. Will they be able to handle the different ideas these “strangers” will bring? I find with myself, however, that these concerns become a crutch and an excuse. What better way for our children to practice “intellectual hospitality” toward beliefs contrary to our own than in our home under our guidance? We are called to be a loving community that welcomes the non-believer, a community that offers a place for them that is better than the one they currently have because we have the love of Christ. This practically looks like having our neighbors over for a BBQ, seeking out parents of our children’s friends for coffee, and actively being involved in missions where we can come alongside families who are struggling.
We have to remember that Christ did not come for the healthy but for the sick. Care for one another within the church as a family is crucial, but we cannot forget those outside of the church. If we all circle our wagons under the guise of protection, who is left to advance the gospel? Sharing Christ’s love does not require us to have the exact answers to questions about our faith. It requires us to simply be available to love people, remembering that Christ said, “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in…Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:34-36, 40).