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First Thoughts

Caring for Others through Hospitality

Love in Action

One of the most often repeated commands in the New Testament is to “love one another.” But we live in a world where where it seems like no one shares the same definition of “love.” If you were to search online for examples of love, you’d come up with hundreds of stories, quotes, and pictures trying to grasp at what love really is. We ask, is love just a feeling? An emotion? Is it something you give or take? Is it something you do? Is it just some abstract, philosophical idea? How can I know love when I see it?

So, in all this confusion, how are Christians supposed to go about loving others if we’re not even sure what love itself is? This problem gets worse when we find out that over one-third of the “one another” commands in the Bible are about loving one another. Jesus himself said the two greatest commandments are to love God and love people (Matthew 22:37-40). How are we supposed to fulfill this command to love?

Praise the Lord; God never commands us to do something without giving us the clarity we need to get it done. In three places in the Bible, God gives us the same concrete action to take in regard to loving one another– “show hospitality.” You can see the rhythm in all three passages. First is the command to love, then is the example of showing hospitality:

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality (Romans 12:10-13).

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares (Hebrews 13:1-2).

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling (1 Peter 4:8-9).

In fact, these are the only times in the Scriptures that we are commanded to show hospitality. And every time, the command comes in the context of showing love to one another. God is telling us through these verses that if you want to fulfill his command to love someone, one of the ways you do that is by showing them hospitality. It’s impossible to show biblical hospitality without loving your guest. And at the same time, one of the key ways that we demonstrate our love for others is by hosting them in our homes for fellowship.

Our Heavenly Home

But why does opening up our homes for fellowship equate to love? It’s because earthly hospitality is predicated upon God’s love for his adopted children: Christians.

One of the most important aspects of salvation is adoption. We define the doctrine of “adoption” as being brought into the family of God, made a coheir with Christ our brother, and being called children of God. Because God loved us so much, he sent Jesus to redeem us from the curse of sin under the law. When we have faith in Jesus, we are no longer slaves to sin but become children of God. Because we are his beloved children, we are also heirs of the promised kingdom (Galatians 3:25-4:7). When we repent of our sins, we receive the Spirit of adoption and begin to call God “our Father.” The Spirit then confirms that we are part of the family of God (Romans 8:13-17). Because of that hope, we get to be called children of God (1 John 3:1-3)! One day, we will walk through the doors of God our Father’s home in heaven, where we’ll sit at the dining room table and feast with Jesus, our brother, and our Christian family as eternity begins (Revelation 19:6-9).

So why hospitality here and now? Well, when you were growing up, who shared your home with you? Your brothers and sisters and parents, and it’s the same way in the Bible! We are adopted by the Father and invited into his heavenly home when we believe in his Son. The gospel is the grounds for our hospitality. Christians who have been adopted by God the Father into his family should share their homes with their Christian brothers and sisters.

This doctrine of adoption should flow out into our practice as Christians in the form of hospitality. Just as God, in his immeasurable love for us, has brought us into his family and seated us at the table, we should extend the same to others. Only when we recognize God’s supremacy over our lives and our homes will we be willing to share our homes with our Christian family, our brothers, and sisters in Christ.

One day, we, who are God’s children, will head home to be with him forever. But the great joy we have today is that we get to reflect a little bit of heaven on earth when we open our doors to our spiritual family and love them by showing hospitality.

Listen to Pastor Austin’s sermon on Caring for Others through Hospitality from the Sunday night series entitled Reclaiming Love: People of Compassion in a World Full of Hate.

Serve Pastor

Austin Collins (M.Div., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the Serve Pastor at First Baptist Church.

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