Practicing Hospitality

Intro:  Read Romans 12:9-13 – 9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.  Our focus today is the last command of vs. 13 – Practice hospitality. Do you do this?  How can you know?

I. What is Hospitality?  The English dictionary defines hospitality as “the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers.”  In view of this definition we often speak about hospitality as  having our friends and relatives over for a meal. This is not what is intended in the Biblical use of this word.

A.  The original word that is translated hospitality in Romans 12 is philoxenia   (‎fil-on-ex-ee’-ah)this compound word is from (philoslove and xenosa stranger).

  • The word means the love of strangers. It is cordial treatment and provision for those other than our family. To treat those who are not in you family as though they are. It is opening the blessings of our home to those who are not naturally entitled to them.

1.  This concept may go beyond our physical family.  The first part of vs. 13 focuses on how we treat other Christians (contribute to each other’s needs); the last half tells us how we are to treat those that are not – (practice hospitality)

2.  True hospitality is not just entertaining. When you entertain you bring glory to yourself, when you are hospitable you bring glory to God. Some Christians love to entertain. They love showing off their newest recipes, and their well-kept or expensive home. They may even love the companionship of good friends (come over and watch the game). We do it because it makes us feel good. It has its own reward.

3.  True hospitality may be a risky and expensive endeavor. It may make us look ridiculous or foolish in the sight of others.  Luke 10:34-35 – the good Samaritan was taking a risk to help this stranger. (“Good Samaritan Hospital” – although the concept of helping the injured is involved, Jesus’ story was not designed to encourage institutional or even congregational care for the poor and needy in society, but individual hospitality.)  

4.  True hospitality does not seek reciprocation.  It is a moral duty that has its reward in pleasing God.  Luke 14:12-14 – 12 Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

 II.  The Common Duty of God’s People. In Job’s self-defense of his own righteousness, he declared “But no sojourner had to lodge in the street, for I have opened my doors to the traveler.” (Job 31:32) What Job was describing was the God-appointed duty of hospitality. God has always expected His people to welcome others into their homes. To fail to do this was sin.

A. Hospitality of Abraham.  One of the classic examples of this practice is found in the life of Abraham, God’s true representative of living by faith.    Gen 18:2-8 – 2 So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground, 3 and said, “My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant. 4 Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. 5 And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by, inasmuch as you have come to your servant.” They said, “Do as you have said.” 6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes.” 7 And Abraham ran to the herd, took a tender and good calf, gave it to a young man, and he hastened to prepare it. 8 So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate. It was common for Bedouin sojourners to extend hospitality, but I ma convinced that both Sarah and Abraham acted with urgency to meet the immediate needs of these strangers because they wanted to reflect the graciousness of their God to others.

1.  When they did there was a surprise. These strangers brought the Word of God to them in the form of the promise of a son. What a blessing from an unforeseen source.  We can’t help but wonder what would have happened if Abraham had not been hospitable to these strangers. Centuries later the writer of Hebrews put it this way: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers for by so doing some have entertained angels without being aware of it.”  (NASB) The writer points to a spiritual value of hospitality that we only be able to see in hindsight.

B.  Hospitality in the Law of Moses. Lev 19:33-34  33 ‘And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him.  34 The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. This is one of the clearest texts in the O.T. on the necessity of hospitality. What is the motivation for hospitality here? The Israelites had been strangers in a foreign land themselves. They can sympathize with those who have no home.

1. “I am the Lord Your God” – this phrase is packed with meaning. It is the first words of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:2. Any good Israelite could finish the sentence: “I am the Lord your God WHO BROUGHT YOU UP OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT, OUT OF THE HOUSE OF BONDAGE.”  These words appear a dozen times in Leviticus 19, and are shorthand for: I am Yahweh who came to you when you were strangers in Egypt and saved you. If God were not a hospitable God we could not have been saved. The apostle Paul said that when we were without Christ we were aliens, strangers, and without hope (Eph. 2:12), but now “you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,” (Eph 2:19)

C.  Hospitality in the New Testament: In the New Testament the duty was reemphasized for the Christian community.

1.  Romans 12:13 –  Our key passage literally says.. “Pursue hospitality.”  And the verb “pursue” implies continuous action and describes a hunter stalking his prey. He does not simply sit and wait for the prey to come to him. He goes after it. So the Christian is to pursue opportunities to be hospitable. Paul uses the same language to describe the proven character of a qualified elder (“given to hospitality” 1 Tim. 3:2).  So hospitality is not just be a holiday practice but a constant attitude and practice.

2.  Hebrew 13:2 – The passage we referenced earlier says do not neglect to show hospitality“. It is an activity that it is easy to neglect or only do sporadically.  Our homes and apartments should stand constantly ready toward hospitality-a readiness to welcome people who don’t ordinarily live there.

3.  1 Peter 4:8-9 says, “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”  Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.”   

a.  “without grumbling”  – Those words add a whole other dimension to this command.  It is not just a command that can be legalistically fulfilled with a quota of guests. The truly hospitable person is able to see through the physical work and trouble and focus on the spiritual benefit that is gained.  As the next verses indicate, the hospitable Christian views himself as a steward of everything that god has given him and seeks to use what he has to bring glory to God. Because his sacrifice has spiritual value he is happy to do it.

 III.  What Does True Hospitality Look Like? – There is an example of authentic hospitality that stands above others. Have you ever heard of a Shunammite chamber? It was a practice in times past when preachers would serve a circuit of congregations for some people to set aside a room in their house for these traveling preachers to use when they came through town. These rooms were known as shunnamite chambers.

A.  The term comes from an amazing story in 2 Kings 4:8-10  8 Now it happened one day that Elisha went to Shunem, where there was a notable woman, and she persuaded him to eat some food. So it was, as often as he passed by, he would turn in there to eat some food. 9 And she said to her husband, “Look now, I know that this is a holy man of God, who passes by us regularly.10 Please, let us make a small upper room on the wall; and let us put a bed for him there, and a table and a chair and a lampstand; so it will be, whenever he comes to us, he can turn in there.”

1.  Ladies, how would your husband react if you hit him with this lady’s proposal? Let’s add on to the house? a  new family room, dining room, or a new den or office?  No, a room for the visiting preacher, or a Christian who needs a place to stay while he is in town?

2.  Elisha is so moved by their kindness that he offers to help them in some way.  2 Kings 4:13-17 – And he said to him, “Say now to her, ‘Look, you have been concerned for us with all this care. What can I do for you? Do you want me to speak on your behalf to the king or to the commander of the army?'” She answered, “I dwell among my own people.” 14 So he said, “What then is to be done for her?” And Gehazi answered, “Actually, she has no son, and her husband is old.” 15 So he said, “Call her.” When he had called her, she stood in the doorway. 16 Then he said, “About this time next year you shall embrace a son.” And she said, “No, my lord. Man of God, do not lie to your maidservant!” 17 But the woman conceived, and bore a son when the appointed time had come, of which Elisha had told her.

3.  This was her one great void. She did not have a son. God rewarded her hospitality in a way she could not have imagined. Later that son become sick and died in her arms. It was Elisha, again, who came to her aid, and raised the son back to life. That little room paid enormous dividends.

4.  How could we ever begin to estimate the number and depth of the meaningful spiritual relationship we could create among ourselves if we were willing to practice hospitality?

 IV.  Strategic Hospitality – As we mentioned earlier, The ultimate act of hospitality was when Jesus Christ died for sinners to make everyone who obeys the gospel a member of the household of God. We are no longer strangers and sojourners. Everybody who trusts in Jesus finds a home in God.

A.  And why did God do it? Ephesians 1:5-6: “He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace.” He did it for the praise of the glory of his grace. It was the same reason that he rescued unworthy strangers in Egypt-for his own glory.

B.  It seems clear that true hospitality has the ability to honor God and His grace, especially when it becomes a conduit for the liberating message of the grace of God.

C.  Our hospitality, then need to be strategic. What I mean by strategic hospitality  that asks:

  • How can I draw the most people to God through the use of my home and its blessings?
  • Who might need reinforcements just now in the battle against loneliness?
  • Who are the people who need to get to know each other better, and how can I use my home to accomplish that?

 Conclusion:  As we mentioned earlier, true hospitality is risky. But the stakes are high if I fail as well. Matt 25:41-46 – “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ 44 “Then they also will answer Him,* saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”   I must learn to trust God enough to do what He commands. He will not allow me to be ashamed.

 Jesus is inviting you into His house.