Hospitality. What does this mean? How does one define it? And, how are we to apply it? Depending on where you live, where you are from, and how you were raised probably plays a big part in how you would answer those questions. Hospitality can certainly take on many different forms, several of which we hope to explore with you as we progress in our studies and application of hospitality. But, today we are starting with the basics. Namely, what does the Bible mean when it talks about Hospitality? How does God's word define Hospitality? And, how does the Bible tell us to apply it? My goal is to began to lay a foundation for which all future study, conversation, and application can be based upon...the clear teaching of Scripture.
Today, I want to focus primarily on one passage of Scripture, the theme verses of Offering Hospitality, 1 Peter 4:8-11 which says:
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. Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
And, I want to pay particular attention to verses 8-10.
I think it is important to note that the Apostle Paul begins the paragraph with verse 7 in which he encourages us to “be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.” With any endeavor of life we should begin and end with prayer...likewise, the in-between parts should be filled with prayer to our God and King. So, before taking the bridle in your teeth and plunging head long into practicing hospitality, get on your knees and pray for God to guide you as you seek to honor Him, to give you the wisdom, grace, and opportunity to do His will through the means of Hospitality. Oh, and as a side note for Christians, do not pray about whether or not you should practice hospitality, if you are a Christian you are required to! Because verse 9 of 1 Peter 4 says 'BE Hospitable'. That my dear sisters and brothers in Christ, is a command. So, you don't have the option to pray about being hospitable, only praying that you will do it well and to God's glory!
The next thing Paul tells us is “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” The implications of this verse are far reaching indeed. But, let us start with a question, what is love? To sum it up:
Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, endure all things. Love never fails... 1 Corinthians 13:4-8True love is sacrificial, Christ's love was sacrificial, and we are to be like Christ. We are to be fervent in this love why? Because this love, Christ-like love, covers a multitude of sins. Why would we need that with reference to hospitality? Well, as an example, I am sure most of you have heard this little saying before, “Company and Fish have one thing in common...after three days, they both stink!” Hence, Paul quickly follows up with, “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.”
Now, I would like to delve a little deeper in to verse 9 “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” And, to this end I pulled out my husband's Analytical Greek Lexicon and his Interlinear Bible, because I wanted to verify what the meaning of these words were in the original Greek.
I was a little surprised by what the Greek word, Hospitable, Paul used meant. Quite literally it means: Stranger-Loving; kind to strangers.
Now, being from the South I have always understood hospitality to mean predominately hosting friends and family...with parties, dinners, to stay with you and so on. But, Paul expressly is telling us here to host, love, and be kind to strangers! Now that doesn't mean that you should refrain from being hospitable to your friends and family. But, the Apostle is telling us here expressly that we must love and be kind to strangers. Not in some emotional sense of the word, but with Biblical love, sacrificial Love as found in 1 Corinthians 13. So, what does that mean to us in 21st Century America? Well, it could mean inviting a visitor at Church home to have dinner with you instead of taking that Sunday afternoon nap, or inviting a co-worker or acquaintance over to get to know them better. It might mean hosting missionaries in our homes when they are State side, or it could mean feeding homeless at the Salvation Army. The applications are endless. But, the predominate point Paul is making is to get out of your comfort zone and minister to the needs of a stranger. Perhaps a stranger who is in desperate need of hearing the Gospel. Let your hospitality be a means by which you expand the kingdom of Christ. Here is a fascinating passage to think upon, Hebrews 13:1-3 which says:
“Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated since you yourselves also are in the body.”“Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” I looked up all of these other words in the Greek too and guess what the word grumbling means in Greek? Grumbling! Fancy that ya'll! (See my southern is coming out!) Seriously, it quite literally means, predominately, an expression of dissatisfaction, grumbling, complaining and it also means skepticism about someone, murmuring, whispering, secret talk.
Now what does this imply? Well, an expression of dissatisfaction could be the sigh(s) of annoyance when your husband tells you his has invited someone over to dinner after Church. It could be complaining about having to clean the house or cook dinner in front of or to your children in preparation for guests. Or it could mean you are skeptical about inviting so and so over because...well, let's face it, they really do not think like you, they aren't quite up to your level, and besides you would never go over to their house! Or it could mean you go around muttering under your breath about having to go serve at the homeless shelter...I mean, after all, isn't your day busy enough already? Or it could be calling up your girlfriend(s), or your mom, or your sister(s) (or all of the above) and talk about how much work you have had to do to get your house ready to host these missionaries and all the groceries you have had to buy, how many hours you've spent in the kitchen and so on (all of which your smiling face would never betray to those to whom you are “showing hospitality” to). Beloved, this is NOT being hospitable without complaint! It is not a Christian attitude! If you go around grumbling about being hospitable you are not demonstrating the sacrificial love of Christ, that love that Peter tells us to Be fervent in.
I wanted to take a moment to bring out a specific element of that love we are to be fervent in...which is “love does not boast.” We sincerely want to encourage all you to share ideas on this forum. Talking about one's experiences and practices are part of that...but please be sure that as you do these good deeds of hospitality that you are not doing it to receive glory from men. We are not to be hospitable because of what we can get out of it, how good it makes us look, or because it is always going to be easy, though we can be greatly blessed and derive much enjoyment from the practice and with practice hospitality WILL become easier. We practice hospitality to be Christ like and for His glory. Consider Luke 6:30-33 from the Sermon on the Mount:
Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. And just as you want people to treat you, treat them in the same way. And if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
“As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Before concluding I wanted to make to quick observations about verse 10 of 1 Peter 4. When you practice hospitality you are gifting another person(s), whether that person be a stranger as Paul was talking about, or family member(s), or a friend. Hospitality blesses others. And, to be hospitable requires that YOU have the gift of hospitality. And do you know what? I have good news for you! YOU have that gift right now! Paul says BE (command) Hospitable (how?) without complaint as (or in Southern for because) each one has (meaning you have it now it is a done deal) received (Greek: being under one's control, take hold of, grasp) a special gift (Greek: as the result of a gracious act of God) employ it in serving one another, (strangers, the brothern, etc.) as good stewards of the manifold grace of God (which is YOUR reason for practicing hospitality)!
So REJOICE! God has given you the gift of hospitality, He has commanded that you practice hospitality, and told you why you are to do these things...so that the Grace of Almighty God might be manifested THROUGH YOU!!! So hit your knees in prayer and then start making those prayers a reality by faithfully carrying out the charge God has given into your hands...to OFFER HOSPITALITY!