In this two-part blog, we’ll first look at what the Bible teaches about what hospitality looks like. The next installment will contain a list of practical helps and tips for engaging in real-life hospitality in your home.
It’s a scary word – hospitality. It’s a word that often strikes fear in the hearts of Christians. We’re busy, and our homes can be messy, and – oh no – our kids just drew 13 smiley faces on the wall with permanent marker. “Hospitality” conjures to mind elegant table settings, fanciful three-course dinners, and spotless homes with well-mannered children. But thankfully, that’s not what biblical hospitality has to look like. In a single verse, Paul provides for us a biblical definition of hospitality. In Romans 15:7, he says to “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” There are three keys to this verse – a what, a how, and a why – that explain what biblical hospitality looks like.
What: We are called to welcome one another. Jesus Christ wants us to welcome everyone with open arms, smiling faces, and a desire to serve above and beyond. Biblical hospitality means opening up our hearts, our homes, and our church to others.
How: As Christ has welcomed you. The welcome that Christ gave us into the family of God cost us his life. Through his death on the cross, we were brought near to God. We, who are his disciples, should exemplify that sacrificial service in the way we go about welcoming others.
Why: For the glory of God. The reason why we want to warmly bring others into our homes and greet them with love is so that God might be worshiped and glorified. Lord willing, through conversations with us, our guests will hear the gospel, repent of their sins, and believe in the Lord Jesus. When this happens, God is glorified above all!
Hospitality isn’t always about having a Cordon Bleu-level dinner or a picture-perfect house. It can be, and the Lord has blessed some people with those things to share with others. But maybe for you, it’s grabbing pizza and some cans of soda on your way home from work and calling a family in your Sunday School class to come over, eat, and fellowship in the backyard while the kids run around. Hospitality is about a willingness to have open hearts and open doors because Christ does the same for you. With this in mind, I want to share four avenues of grace that biblical hospitality opens up for us. Will you commit to walking down one of them in the next month with your family?
There is nothing like hospitality to grant you a captive audience. Inviting your neighbors or coworkers into your home for dinner is an easy way to get to know them better, learn how to care for them, and eventually share the gospel with them as your relationship deepens. Something about the warmth around a dining room table helps people lower their guard and be more open to the things you share with them. As you get to know unbelievers around a meal in your home, you’ll discover different pathways to take in leading them to Jesus.
There are so many holidays that involve food and fellowship. At your next cookout or potluck for one of these holidays, challenge yourself to invite one of your unbelieving neighbors to come to eat and hang out. Hospitality is as simple as that! It creates the opportunity for you to talk about the gospel with them.
The early church modeled hospitality for us. Early on, churches often met in people’s homes, where they gathered to hear the Word taught, to pray together, and to grow in their fellowship with one another. And then, in Acts 2, we see the fruit of the combination of hospitality and discipleship: “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:46-47). Do you see the direct result of discipleship taking place through hospitality? Salvation for more people! As Christians opened their homes for discipleship, God blessed their efforts, and the church grew!
Hospitality can look similar to this today. Instead of braving the hustle and bustle of a busy café to meet with someone and study the Bible, open up your home, sit together at the kitchen table or in the den, and drink homemade coffee out of your favorite mugs as you open up the Word and pray. Maybe watch a sermon together and discuss it afterward while you munch on chips and salsa.
In Matthew 25:31-40, Jesus is commending his sheep for showing genuine care to him during their lives, and yet the people are confused because they had never personally encountered Jesus in the flesh. Jesus reassured them that when they showed care to “the least of these,” they were glorifying him. Opening up our homes to the brokenhearted, the downcast, those in need of a place of refuge, the hungry and the thirsty – when we do this for Jesus’ people, we are doing this for Jesus’ sake. Hospitality means giving a warm embrace to the church member grieving a loss on your living room couch. Or reading Scripture with them at your dining room table and reminding them of the gospel. Though it might cost us something now, we can look forward to when Christ will restore anything we may have lost in our efforts to care for others: “The King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’” (Matthew 25:34).
This past week some friends of ours found themselves without a working fridge and a kitchen under repair. We were already planning on having breakfast for dinner that night as a family, so we invited these friends over, threw a few more slices of bacon in the skillet, and rejoiced with them about how God was working wonders through a difficult season in their life.
Showing hospitality provides us with one of the best ways to grow in our relationships with other Christians. In Philemon 1:12, Paul states that he is sending Onesimus “back to [Philemon], sending my very heart.” How many people can you say that same statement about? How many fellow church members would you say constitute the very core of who you are? When we invite people into our lives and our homes, we open up a setting of intimacy, comfort, and safety where we can truly get to know other Christians and grow in community with one another.
A simple way to cultivate community through hospitality is hosting playdates for kids. In our neighborhood, there is another Christian family who has a child around the same age as ours. At least once a month, my wife opens up our home to this mom and her son to come over. While the toddlers play, the moms talk about ministry, the Bible, and parenting. There’s no fancy tea or crumpets, but these two ladies have grown to love one another dearly in just a short time simply by letting one another into their homes and, through that, their lives.
Hospitality begins and ends with Jesus Christ. Jesus, through his death and resurrection, has brought believers into the family of God. But even more than that, God has shown us “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7) through all he has given us. And at the same time, God’s generosity to us gives glory to him as the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). We are simply stewards of what he’s given to us. God has commanded us to share with others so that we might display the glory of Jesus to the world. God has given us more than we could ever need, so why should we be stingy with our homes, belongings, money, or time (Philippians 4:19)? So, brothers and sisters, show hospitality on earth now, looking forward to the heavenly hospitality we will receive from God at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-9). Invite someone over, share a meal, and talk about Jesus with them – no matter who they are. Welcome them as Jesus welcomes you.
Austin Collins (M.Div., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the Serve Pastor at First Baptist Church.