Exciting phrases, easy acronyms, and memorable lists formed from dense works of systematic theology can be helpful for the everyday Christian. While these reductions of God’s Word and His nature help us understand general frameworks, they are unable to help us understand everything the Bible teaches. It is one thing...
I pulled up to my driveway and sighed, seeing all the kids gathered there. If this sight was something I’d prayed for, why was I so frustrated?
I used to tell everybody that I wanted my house to be “the Kool-Aid house,” the one where all the kids played and there was commotion and excitement and fun everywhere you looked. When my kids were younger, that was my life. As a stay-at-home mom, I prided myself in having the house where lemonade was given out and snacks were close at hand.
So when had my heart changed?
Practicing the Gospel
Actually, it hadn’t. Even when I thought I was being hospitable, my heart was not in the right place. I was being friendly, but I wasn’t experiencing or practicing the gospel in hospitality. Pridefully, I wanted my home perfect, the snacks perfect, and for there to be perfect purpose in every gathering – but I was missing the mark.
I had forgotten that true hospitality pictures the gospel as we open our home to others. For it was by the Master’s invitation – not by anything we did – that we were welcomed into his family and given a seat at his table.
Picturing the Gospel
Biblical hospitality means I can extend my home, family, and gifts as an offering to the One who gave each of those gifts to me. I can look at time with others not as something I can gain from, but as a way to serve.
A Bridge to the Broken
For the Son of man has come to save that which was lost. (Matthew 18:11)
Jesus Christ came to save us. He traveled with sinners, talked to sinners, and healed sinners. He didn’t spend time with those who “had it all together” because no one does but him. He spent time with the lonely, the hurt, the dying. And he healed them, both physically and spiritually. He came and saved people, transforming their lives to glorify his Father in heaven.
If we believe hospitality is about entertaining, then we’re always putting on a show. We’ll never let people into the chaos of our lives – even though the mess is where God’s message rings loud and clear. He’s the God who saves and uses imperfect people.
I had to be reminded that hospitality goes beyond entertainment. It’s one of the key ways we bring the gospel to a needy, broken world.
A Bench for the Weary
Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
The story of Christ seems easy enough to share with our friends or people with whom we feel comfortable. To give our friends a place to feel welcome is easy enough. But when we share the hope of Christ with those we don’t know well, or who may be different than us? That’s when we rely most heavily on God’s power through his Holy Spirit.
It’s in the times of relative discomfort and unease that we aren’t serving our own desires or by our power, but looking to Christ for his love and strength. Only he can give us words and wisdom in our conversations and actions to reach the weary and needy, especially strangers or difficult people.
This is hard. Jesus bids us to come and die, and there’s nothing easy about that. But at the heart of hospitality is the heart of the gospel – sacrifice, love, and humility.
A Door to the Lost
Hospitality means making room in our lives and our homes for others to come and see the gospel of Christ. It’s an open door to the Door, himself (John 10:9). Whether around the dinner table, while eating s’mores, at soccer practice, or in the driveway, we seek opportunities – open doors – to invite people to Christ and his church.
Hospitality beams throughout the Bible, from the Old to the New Testament. We read about Abraham greeting angels. We see God command Israel to make room for refugees and nomads as they travel through their land. We behold Jesus eating and drinking with sinners, tax collectors, and outcasts.
Proclaiming the Gospel
Gospel-centered hospitality isn’t a suggestion, but a biblical command:
Therefore welcome one another, as Jesus has welcomed you. (Romans 15:7)
And when we seek to connect with those around us, forming relationships to glorify God and grow his kingdom, he will do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine from every sacrifice we give him. He will use our bridges to connect generations of people; he’ll take our simple benches and turn them into stadiums of followers; and he’ll take our open doors and welcome more of his people into a life of freedom and joy through Christ.
To proclaim the hope we have in Jesus through hospitality is a treasure and an honor. The next time I see a lot of kids in my driveway or piles of shoes in the hall, I’ll thank God for the opportunity to be a picture of the gospel for his glory!