Thursday, June 01, 2006

Hospitality - Open Heart Exposed

Hospitality - Open Heart Exposed

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Rom 12:1)

Early in 1991 a dear friend of mine, John McCabe and I listened to a sermon by a Baptist preacher named Al Martin on the subject of hospitality. The word hospitality φιλοξενία, philoxenía, means “love of strangers” and is a biblical action and discipline taught throughout scripture which believers are to pursue. From that sermon and further study of the subject we decided that it certainly was a Christian discipline lacking in each of our families. It was a time of learning in how to open our hearts to others. Later that year we were called upon to teach the discipline to members of the Church. John took the lead in teaching the subject and did an excellent job in training the basics of Christian hospitality. In this blog it is my desire to share with you the essence of that study in hopes that God will use it to first renew my pursuit of this great discipline and secondly to introduce and bring to remembrance this service to Christian brothers and sisters.

Supporting Scripture includes:

Rom. 12:10-13 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.

1Ti 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

1Ti 5:10 Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.

Tit 1:8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;

Heb. 13:1-2 Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

1Pe 4:9 Use hospitality one to another without grudging.

A Biblical Overview:

a. In the Old Testament - In the law ones exercise to strangers and the poor is encouraged in (Lev. 19:33,34; 25:14,15,23, etc.; Deut. 15:7). Examples of hospitality include:

(a.) Abraham, Gen. 18;
(b.) Lot, 19;
(c.) Reuel, Exo. 2:20;
(d.) Manoah, Judg. 13:15;
(e.) Job 31:32; etc.

b. In the New Testament Gospels - The Lord Jesus illustrates hospitality in the account of the good Samaritan Lk 10:30-37, there are promises to reward it Mt. 10:42, and in regards to hospitalities exercise toward His disciples as being towards Himself, it will count as one proof of the love whose crowning joy shall be the invitation, "Come ye blessed of My Father" Mt. 25:43, etc.

c. In the Writings of the Epistles - The apostles urge the duty of hospitality (Rom. 12:13; 1 Tim. 5:10; 3:2; Titus 1:8; Heb. 13:2; 1 Pet. 4:9).

Hospitality was very important in the early New Testament Church. It was a duty of necessity in times of persecution when Christians were being driven from home. Peter addresses that in his epistle having stated that believers were dispersed and were strangers in every city or country where they lived and were scattered. This duty of the open heart of love therefore is to be done is a courteous and voluntary manner. In opening the heart to love of the stranger in this manner one meets the needs of the believers Rom_12:13; 1Ti_3:2 ; Heb_13:2.). This is one of great social tools which was very useful in the spread of Christianity. While there were some Christians such as soldiers, business merchants, etc that were able to obtain and pay for their own travel, there were ordinary missionary, apostolic and evangelistic endeavors, such as that of the Apostle Paul that counted on hospitality to carry forth the spread of the faith. Love of the saints with an open heart met those needs.

Christ himself directed the apostles to "take nothing for their journey” (Mar_6:8, etc.). They understood expecting to always find hospitality. This clearly indicated he extent by which God's people practiced this faith discipline. In many cities and places where they would travel they had multiple choices where they could choose to stay and be recipients of hospitality (Matt. 10:11). These Christian travelers are known as bearers of good tidings and those that receive them and meet their necessities do a virtuous work. To have rejected being hospitable to one of Christ's “least brethren” is equivalent to the rejection of Christ Himself (Mat_25:43; compare Mat_25:35; Matt. 10:14).

In asking what Christians think about hospitality many answered - "It is a gift of the Holy Spirit" or "It is the duty of the leaders of the Church". While it is a duty of the leaders of the Church (1 Tim. 3:2; 5:10; Tit. 1:8) it is not a gift which some Christians have and some do not have. As the reading of the Scripture clearly shows is God's will for all Christians to perform. Because of the "mercies of God” Christians are to search out opportunities to exercise loving the stranger since they are to be "given to hospitality" (Rom 12:1; 13).

Pursuing hospitality is a reflection of the attribute of Our Lord Jesus. In expressing hospitality we show a tangible expression of love. His tangible expression of love of the stranger is displayed in the work He expressed in redeeming His people from their sins. The reality of the love of God is made known for the stranger when He quickened us "who were dead in trespasses and sins, and in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, by (grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (1 Jn 4:8; Eph 2:1-6). The Lord has truly opened His heart and adopted us to be His children. It truly is in this great salvation that Our Lord has truly displayed more love towards strangers than anyone else.

Hospitality is very important to the Church today. There are blessings of service attached within the expression of hospitality. These blessings include: a.) showing the stranger love, b.) creation of opportunities to evangelize, 3.) it creates a natural opportunity for mutual exhortation of the people of God that have a need in their life, and 4.) it is a means of personal blessing through being exhorted as Christians and people who are messengers of the faith are entertained.

In our society there does not seem to be much in way of active pursuit of hospitality. Going down the street, passing one another in the malls, and the riding of busy elevators is a lesson in just how far removed we are from a society which pursues hospitality. Notice that eyes do not connect, silence is "heard" and the newspapers and magazines have become a mans best friend. Individuality and being alone is the way of this world. As Christians we must break out of this and meet the call to pursue this most needful action to be hospitable. It is our duty to conform to Christ and His word. When out Lord taught us the greatest commandment he said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. (Mat 22:36-38) therefore, in our love to God we are to keep his non burdensome commandments and love the stranger. Looking away, hiding behind a newspaper, etc. is not for the Christian. So what is the Christian to do? The answer - Open your heart and show that you do care for and love the stranger and show that in a pursuit of hospitality. Then carry this instruction to your children instriuctingthem to open their heart and love the stranger: “And these words, …..shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. (Deu 6:6-7)

Therefore, since hospitality is important and since the Bible directs us to pursue this duty certain questions are appropriate to ask - "Are you pursuing hospitality? Do you love the stranger?" Remember this from the writing of elder John in chapter 4 verse 8 - He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. "What then does this mean for you, your family, your Church? Does this call for a new or a renewed outlook, policy and or change in priorities in your life and / or the life of your Church?"

Avenues for Pursuing Hospitality:

Since it is a biblical responsibility and since some of us may not have been, or may be out of the practice of pursuing hospitality it is important that practical considerations for finding avenues that open opportunities to pursue hospitality. You may be asking, "Where do I start?" "How do I come up with avenues that will lead me to where there are needs to give hospitality?" Here are several avenues that are suggestions as a place to start:

1. People at Church you don't really know
2. New Visitors at Church
3. New Neighbors
4. People you contact that are in need through civic service groups such as Lyon and Kawanis Clubs
5. Seek referrals from homeless shelters to love the strangers6. Widows and orphans

While not commenting on each one of the avenues I do want to suggest that the first good place to look is within the Church! It is possible to know the names of all the people in your Church however; some of the people may truly be strangers to you. If this is true I suggest you pursue showing them hospitality first then reach out into the community.

Cautions in Pursuing Hospitality:

1. Deceivers on a mission with a message:Deceivers abound, therefore you should be very careful and discerning concerning whom you have into your home. Religiously many people show up that do not believe the Christ if the Bible. Here we can give as example the knock on the door that comes from the Jehovah's Witnesses or the Mormon's. But this can also come from people that have visited your church that you may be seeking to show hospitality to. These people I am talking about are people on a mission with a message that is anti-christian. The hold not the doctrine of Christ. If they come to you, and they will, you are not to express hospitality to them. Note the instruction John gave to the lady in his second epistle. "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him Godspeed: (2Jo 1:10-12)Take note that this does not mean you cannot show hospitality to non-Christians. There are many nonbelievers that can be served out of love, care and concern. Many folks that do not believe are not speaking against Christ in the manner of those that come teaching against the doctrine of Christ’s deity and work. A teacher of false doctrine is different than meeting and serving a person whom just does not have faith in Christ. Showing hospitality to nonbelievers opens opportunities to share the gospel of Christ with those that know not Christ.

Showing Hospitality to the Needy: Widows, Orphans, Known Ex-Prisoners, , Homelessness, Etc.

Since our religion affects the heart in love for the Lord and in service to our fellow man it is often expressed in helping the needy. Therefore it is important that one understands how to approach showing hospitality to certain groups of people. One group has just been addressed above. However other groups of people that can be served with hospitality that included in a needy category are: widows, orphans, homeless, known ex-prisoners, etc.

Many denominations and Churches have widow and orphan programs in obedience to the Bible stating that pure religion expresses itself in a call to "visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction" so that the needy and helpless are taken care of (Jas. 1; 1 Tim. 5). If your Church has not yet established programs to serve in these areas this would be excellent programs to serve in and / or start since they are particularly addressed in the Scriptures. But if your Church has programs where they serve these people then a commitment to serve and show hospitality through your Church program would surely be appropriate.

As we think of the stranger we must understand that there is a part of who they are, their character, and the past of a person that you want know. This is especially important to know when seeking an approach to showing hospitality to the homeless and ex-prisoners. Hopefully the contacts made through the Church will reveal more of the "real person" so that any necessary precautions or past history that needs ot be know will be understood. Caution is necessary! We do need to be cautious and not just go about picking people up that are on the street or that seem down and out. We are to be discerning and cautious in our approach to showing hospitality to these strangers. This does not mean you cannot love the stranger. It does mean that you should work with your Church, and other established services such as the half way houses, Angel Tree, and other programs that have been set up to help men and women move from correctional institutions, homelessness, etc. back into society unto usefulness.

Open Heart of Hospitality: To be Pursued and Experienced!

While some may think that hospitality may be accomplished if one has someone over to eat at their table with the best of food, drink and finest wines then the biblical concept of hospitality is not understood. Hospitality is based upon genuine love. The open heart of love opens the door to the stranger, which will include people both in and outside the Church, in order to meet the needs to the extent we can. It is not that one has to prepare a week for a guest so that a T-bone steak and the best baked potato be served and then complain about it later. It is to be open hearted sincerely meeting the needs, as much as you can, simplicity. There may be times when potatoes, chicken and green beans are all you can serve from a table perspective. Perhaps a bologna sandwich and a cold glass of water!

And when you do what you can it is to be done without complaining or grumbling whether giving or receiving the love of hospitality. Hospitality is to be given or received in such a manner so as not to speak secretly or behind the backs of those performing or receiving hospitality. Hospitality is to be given sincerely without grumbling and complaining. "And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging." (1Pe 4:8-9)

You may still be uncomfortable, distrustful, or negative in some manner concerning the idea of pursuing hospitality. The writer of Hebrews demands us to “stop being neglectful” on this duty while helping us to overcome any anxieties or distrustful feelings as he reminds us of blessings of Lot and Abraham (Gen_18:2; Gen_19:1). "Stop being neglectful of hospitality, for by this some were unaware they had entertained angels! The stranger or unknown guest may be a messenger of God.

A blessing, being a part of the Christian life, comes in many ways but in particular as hospitality is given. It is a part of the blessings in the group of what I call " The "One Anotherings". (see Appendix C) Some of the blessings attached with the expression of hospitality include:

a.) a showing the stranger love,
b.) a creation of opportunities to evangelize,
c.) a creation of a natural opportunity for mutual exhortation of the people of God that have a need in their life, and
d.) it is a means of personal blessing through being exhorted as Christians are entertained by strangers.

So therefore dear brethren do not be be neglectful in this Christian duty. Pursue it one to another, in contentment without grumbling expecting all the blessing God has in store for you and your family. …

Much more can be said about the duty of hospitality, it’s importance to the Church, where and how to accomplish the goal, etc. I do hope these basic “thotsataglance” gives you a new or renewed insight so that you start the pursuit of hospitality. God bless as you love the stranger with open heart and open home!


Appendix A.

Supporting New Testament Scripture and New Simple Testament Assessment:

A. Supporting Scripture

Rom. 12:10-13 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.

1Ti 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

1Ti 5:10 Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.

Titus1:8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;

Heb. 13:1-2 Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.1Pe 4:9 Use hospitality one to another without grudging.

A. New Testament Assessment

1.Not only did the traveling Christian look naturally to his brethren for hospitality, but the individual churches looked to the traveler for fostering the sense of the unity of the church throughout the world.

2.Hospitality became a virtue indispensable to the well-being of the church - one reason for the emphasis laid on it (Rom_12:13; Rom_16:1 f; Heb_13:2).

3.As the organization of the churches became more perfected, the exercise of hospitality grew to be an official duty of the ministry and a reputation for hospitality was a prerequisite in some cases (1Ti_3:2; 1Ti_5:10; Tit_1:8).

4.The exercise of such hospitality must have become burdensome at times (1Pe_4:9), and as false teachers began to appear in the church a new set of problems was created in discriminating among applicants for hospitality. 2 and 3 Jn reflect some of the difficulties.

Appendix B. –

Historical documents from the Didache and the Apology of Aristides indicating the importance of hospitality throughout the Church.

The Didache, Chapters XI, XII:Didache 11:3 But concerning the apostles and prophets, thus do ye according to the doctrine of the Gospel.Didache 11:4 Let every apostle who cometh unto you be received as the Lord.Didache 11:5--- He will remain one day, and if it be necessary, a second; but if he remain three days, he is a false prophet.Didache 11:6 --- And let the apostle when departing take nothing but bread until he arrive at his resting-place; but if he ask for money, he is a false prophet.

Didache CHAPTER 12

Didache 12:1 Let every one that cometh in the name of the Lord be received, but afterwards ye shall examine him and know his character, for ye have knowledge both of good and evil.Didache 12:2 If the person who cometh be a wayfarer, assist him so far as ye are able; but he will not remain with you more than two or three days, unless there be a necessity.Didache 12:3 But if he wish to settle with you, being a craftsman, let him work, and so eat;Paul addressed the "many" who claimed authority from him or others but who lived off the poor and widows:For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; 2 Thes 3:7Neither did we eat any mans bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: 2 Thes 3:8Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. 2 Thes 3:9 (This is an approved example)For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. 2 Thes 3:10For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. 2 Thes 3:11Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. 2 Thes 3:12Paul, and his support team or alone worked when the people worked and preached when they had time to listen.If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 1 Tim 6:3he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 1 Tim 6: 6:4and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain (occupation). 1Ti.6:5Didache 12:4 but if he know not any craft, provide ye according to you own discretion, that a Christian may not live idle among you;Didache 12:5 but if he be not willing to do so, he is a trafficker in Christ. From such keep aloof.

C. Apology of Aristides, Chapter XV

XV. But the Christians, O King, while they went about and made search, have found the truth; and as we learned from their writings, they have come nearer to truth and genuine knowledge than the rest of the nations. For they know and trust in God, the Creator of heaven and of earth, in whom and from whom are all things, to whom there is no other god as companion, from whom they received commandments which they engraved upon their minds and observe in hope and expectation of the world which is to come. Wherefore they do not commit adultery nor fornication, nor bear false witness, nor embezzle what is held in pledge, nor covet what is not theirs. They honour father and mother, and show kindness to those near to them; and whenever they are judges, they judge uprightly. They do not worship idols (made) in the image of man; and whatsoever they would not that others should do unto them, they do not to others; and of the food which is consecrated to idols they do not eat, for they are pure. And their oppressors they appease (lit: comfort) and make them their friends; they do good to their enemies; and their women, O King, are pure as virgins, and their daughters are modest; and their men keep themselves from every unlawful union and from all uncleanness, in the hope of a recompense to come in the other world. Further, if one or other of them have bondmen and bondwomen or children, through love towards them they persuade them to become Christians, and when they have done so, they call them brethren without distinction. They do not worship strange gods, and they go their way in all modesty and cheerfulness. Falsehood is not found among them; and they love one another, and from widows they do not turn away their esteem; and they deliver the orphan from him who treats him harshly. And he, who has, gives to him who has not, without boasting. And when they see a stranger, they take him in to their homes and rejoice over him as a very brother; for they do not call them brethren after the flesh, but brethren after the spirit and in God. And whenever one of their poor passes from the world, each one of them according to his ability gives heed to him and carefully sees to his burial. And if they hear that one of their number is imprisoned or afflicted on account of the name of their Messiah, all of them anxiously minister to his necessity, and if it is possible to redeem him they set him free. And if there is among them any that is poor and needy, and if they have no spare food, they fast two or three days in order to supply to the needy their lack of food. They observe the precepts of their Messiah with much care, living justly and soberly as the Lord their God commanded them. Every morning and every hour they give thanks and praise to God for His loving-kindnesses toward them; and for their food and their drink they offer thanksgiving to Him. And if any righteous man among them passes from the world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God; and they escort his body as if he were setting out from one place to another near. And when a child has been born to one of them, they give thanks to God; and if moreover it happen to die in childhood, they give thanks to God the more, as for one who has passed through the world without sins. And further if they see that any one of them dies in his ungodliness or in his sins, for him they grieve bitterly, and sorrow as for one who goes to meet his doom.........


The One Anotherings

(Mal 3:16) Then they that feared the LORD spoke often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.

(Joh 13:35) By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

(Rom 12:10) Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another;

(Eph 4:32) And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

(Eph 5:21) Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

(Col 3:9) Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;

(Jam 5:16) Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

(1Pe 4:9) Use hospitality one to another without grudging.(1Pe 4:10) As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

(1Pe 5:5) Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.


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