Time is a commodity and usually something we don’t like to give up too easily…especially for causes that don’t excite us. What about hospitality? This may conjure up images of fun dinner parties for some; while others may think about how tired they are or how much cleaning they’ll have to do first. But what does the Bible say about biblical hospitality? Pat Ennis, professor of homemaking at Southwestern, has written an article for The Gospel Coalition titled How to Practice Biblical Hospitality.
Ennis shares three points about biblical hospitality:
1. How is biblical hospitality described in the Bible?
Ennis recalls, “When hospitality is described in the Scriptures, there are zero instructions regarding home décor, menu, or table setting.”
- There is a command to practice biblical hospitality by loving and seeking out strangers and also helping other Christians in need. (Rom. 12:13b, Heb. 13:2)
- Not only are we to practice hospitality with Christians and non-Christians alike, friends and strangers, we are to practice it without complaining. Our heart attitude is important when obeying the command of hospitality because everything we do is for the Lord first. (1 Peter 4:9, Col. 3:23)
- Our motivation for hospitality should not be to receive something in return. Luke 6:38 tells us that the more we are generous with our blessings the more we will be blessed, so that we can continue giving God glory through our actions. This does not mean that if you do good things for others, you’ll get everything you want because not only is that not how God operates, it is not the right heart attitude.
- Hospitality is also to be extended to Christians in vocational ministry. Ennis writes, “It’s exciting to know that as we share our homes and resources with our Lord’s servants, we become an active part of their ministries.” (3 John 1:7-8)
- 1 Timothy 3:1-2 and Titus 1:7-8 state that church leaders and pastors are also to be hospitable by inviting people into their homes as a witness to the lives they live.
2. How do we cultivate a hospitable heart?
Ennis states, “If we are to cultivate a heart of biblical hospitality, we must refuse to rely on our achievements or to dwell on our failures. And we must lay aside past rejections and grudges. Instead, we must seek to climb the ‘hospitality mountain.’”
Here are some strategies Ennis suggests:
- Create a Pinterest board or clip and save inexpensive recipes for meal ideas.
- Make a list of people in your church and outside your church who you think would be encouraged by an invitation to share a meal with you.
- Plan to invite your first guest(s) soon, check your calendar, or clear some dates to make room.
- You can even invite someone over after church for a spontaneous lunch with your family.
- Pray for God to give you joy when you carry out hospitality in his name.
- Don’t get discouraged if the hospitality time does not go as well as you think it should have, and sincerely communicate that you would like them to come back soon.
Rejection from one person or family (aka not wanting to come over again or possibly even avoiding you) should not cause you to stop practicing hospitality altogether. Remind yourself of the Bible verses on hospitality, and remember that hospitality is not for your benefit but a way to obey the Lord in humble and loving obedience.
3. Should hospitality be used as a vehicle for evangelism?
Ennis shares, “The 21st-century church has cultivated highly sophisticated procedures and tools for evangelism. Training sessions, online and media resources, seminars, manuals, and methodology books are all available. However, as we study Scripture we also find that the home served as a center for evangelism in the early expansion of Christianity.”
When we have non-Christians into our homes, it should not feel like a trap where they are subjected to lectures about the Christian faith or why they are going to hell if they don’t repent. I think there are much more loving ways as we have learned in the points above. Hospitality should be about relationship building, genuine friendships, helping those in need, being examples, and above everything having the right heart attitude.
When you genuinely care about people because you know that God cares about them, those people will pick up on your sincerely, and they will want to hear what you have to say. So don’t be scared to start a conversation about your beliefs, but the key word is conversation…be ready to listen to what they have to say as well. Ask them what their thoughts are, what kind of background they come from, or what kind of questions they have. They should feel like questions are not only allowed in the discussion but are normal. This goes for Christians and non-Christians, discouraged Christians should be able to talk about their questions, doubts, and fears in the presence of other Christians without feeling uncomfortable or looked down upon.
It is through grace that we can offer any hospitality at all, and when we remember that…we will carry out hospitality with humble and genuine hearts.
To read Pat Ennis’ full article, please visit The Gospel Coalition.
If you don’t have a good way to meet new people or people outside of church, Crosswalk Contributor Amy Lively suggests volunteering at your local school, food pantry, homeless shelter, animal shelter, soup kitchen, or nursing home. She also advises calling up a neighbor you haven’t talked to in a while, maybe an elderly neighbor or a widow(er), a new mom, and so on. If no one answers leave an encouraging message. She shares several other tips in her article, 10 Ways to Love Your Neighbor without Being Weird.
3 Ways to Make a Difference in the Place God Puts You
Liz Kanoy is an editor for Crosswalk.com
Publication date: December 14, 2015