‘Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality’
– Romans 12:12.
Living in a society that credits us for working tirelessly through to-do lists and striving for recognition among our peers, the urge to view hospitality as a box to be ticked is tempting.
Many of us may feel we are already sufficiently hospitable. Or perhaps you know that you could do more, but are reluctant to give your time freely. Can we tick it off when we can sign up to the hospitality team? Or invite the new couple at church over for dinner? Then, are we hospitable? As credible as these acts are, ultimately hospitality is not a quota that can be filled – it is a command to be a certain kind of person, to live a certain way of life.
So what does it mean to be hospitable if it can’t be limited to actions? To me, hospitality is about practising generosity - with our time, our homes, our money, our skills and talents. Giving generously is a resounding reminder to us that everything we have is a gift from God. We should be joyful in our giving - ‘each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Corinthians 9:7). To be hospitable is to be welcoming to those who feel displaced and gentle towards those who are hurting. It’s offering a sense of home to those that feel adrift and making time for them. It could be practical help. It could be a kind smile. We are presented with opportunities to practise hospitality every day; big and small. We just need to look for those opportunities and seize them.
Ultimately, we should practise hospitality in our pursuit to become more Christ-like. He first welcomed us and continues to welcome us with abundant grace. This welcome is far more extravagant than any worldly hospitality we might have received – ‘you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household’ (Ephesians 2:19), ‘yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to be children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God’ (John 1:12-13). This captures the spirit of hospitality – drawing in those on the margins of society. It may feel uncomfortable or even inconvenient but we are called to love as Christ loves us. As Paul wrote, ‘may the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 15:5-6). Hospitality instils a sense of community – we are all one in Christ.
As followers of Jesus we are called to serve one another through love (Galatians 5:13). It seems to me that love lies at the very core of what it means to be hospitable. 1 John 4:19 tells us that ‘we love because he first loved us’. To live in the fullness of relationship with Christ is to live a life overflowing with love – so that it cannot help but be poured out to those around us. As we practise this aspect of His character we can better witness to His gentle spirit.
So, as you go out into the week ahead, go armed with the knowledge that you are a living testimony of the Father’s love for you and that you have been called to live this out. Being hospitable is just one of the many ways we can do this.