Have you noticed how much there is in the New Testament about hospitality? We are told to “practise” it (Romans 12:3) – apparently it requires effort. We are to offer it “without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9). We’re not to “forget” to do it (Hebrews 13:2) – our guests may be angels. Church leaders “must be … hospitable” (1 Timothy 3:2) – no room for manoeuvre there! Widows get put on the list for help if they’re known for “showing” it (1 Timothy 5:10). Missionaries must be welcomed hospitably before we “send them on their way” (3 John 5-8). Jesus encourages us to welcome strangers (Matthew 25:35) – in doing so we welcome him.
And yet we tend to think that hospitality is for the select few: those with big enough houses, with a special gift for entertaining or cooking, with enough spare cash to make it easy, with enough spare time, or whatever. True, some are very good at it. Just as some are very good at praying or evangelising or Bible study – but does that mean the rest of us don’t need to do those things?
The thing is, as David Baldwin of Oak Hill puts it, “the gospel itself is hospitality – God’s incredible hospitality to us. God is the ultimate host, and we are the strangers, now guests at his table. He’s delighted to have us. Forgiveness in Christ is the main course; wonderful side dishes adorn the table.” When we open the doors of our church and of our homes to strangers (and not only our friends) we become a little bit like our heavenly Father – and he loves it.
Yours warmly, in Christ,
Chris Hobbs (Senior Minister)