This book title made me laugh: Sorry, I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come: An Introvert’s Year of Living Dangerously. I can relate. Connecting with people doesn’t come easy for me. Especially with strangers. Yet when it comes to meaningful body life in our church, better late than never. Better to live dangerously than safely. And when it comes to being hospitable, the same applies. It may not come easily, but God requires it. I need to show it. And others need to experience it. Each of us is commanded to be hospitable. This may seem like a strange exhortation as we live with gathering restrictions. Yet there are ways we can still obey it.
Hospitality is a command (Romans 12:3; 1 Timothy 5:10; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9). It is not merely a suggestion for certain personality types. Each of us is to show hospitality. For some, this can seem dangerous. After all, hospitable living requires going outside of our comfort zone. It usually requires taking up our cross.
Biblical hospitality means a lot more than having some friends over for a braai. This may be included, but it does not exhaust the command. Showing hospitality calls for an open home, an open schedule, an open ear, and, often, an open wallet. Biblical hospitality is the Christ-driven, selfless willingness to sacrifice our goods for the good of others (Romans 12:13). When it comes to these “others,” this is where the heart of hospitality shines. For, according to both the meaning of “hospitality” and the clear command of Scripture, we are to show hospitality both to those whom we know and to strangers. Hebrews 13:2 makes this clear, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” The focus is not on being “touched by an angel”; rather, the exhortation mandates our responsibility to show the sacrificial love of Christ to those outside our normal circle. We are called to “love strangers.” Biblical hospitality is a display of the radical love of God in that the Christian reaches out to show kindness—even to the point of sacrifice—to those who are strangers to us.
A stranger in Scripture is not necessarily someone we have met for the first time. Rather, it may equally refer to someone who is culturally different. In the Old Testament, a stranger was someone who was outside of God’s covenant nation of Israel. Paul refers to this when he writes that the Gentile converts in Ephesus had been “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenant of promise” (Ephesians 2:12). When it comes to hospitality, we are to pursue with zeal practically meeting the needs of others. Including the needs of strangers—people whom we are not “naturally” inclined to “hang with.” We are to show the love of Christ to those who are demographically different; to those Christians from another congregation who are passing our way (see 3 John); to visitors to our church; to newer members; to neighbours who seem so strange! Practically, showing hospitality might look like young people reaching out to older people and vice versa. It will look like meaningfully connecting with those of another ethnicity. It will mean meeting material needs for those in our church who are in need.
The commands to be hospitable are not unclear; they are not difficult to understand. Rather, the difficulty lies in the reality that loving strangers is risky. Yet, it is rewarding because it is a means to build up the church while reaching out to the lost.
Brothers and sisters, when we demonstrate practical love for others, especially for those whom we do not know well, we are behaving like our heavenly Father. Jesus said, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? …. And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? … You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:46–48). Our heavenly Father gave his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, in order to meet our greatest need: forgiveness of our sins and reconciliation to him. And he did this when we were strangers; strangers who were also enemies (Romans 5:8). May his love empower us to reach out to others—without distinction—with sacrificial, needs-meeting love, that leaves no room for grumbling (1 Peter 4:9).
Living dangerously with you,