Merriam-Webster defines “hospitality” as:
hos·pi·tal·i·ty | \ ˌhä-spə-ˈta-lə-tē \
Definition of hospitality
1 : hospitable treatment, reception, or disposition
Hospitality is not always easy, but it is very important for believers to practice hospitality. Scripture demands that we practice hospitality.
In Philippians 2:25-30, Paul encourages the Philippians church to “receive” Epaphroditus “in the Lord with all joy.” Receive is the verb that I would like to focus on in that section of Scripture because it is the reception part of the definition of hospitality (see the above definition). God wants us to receive people into our lives, our homes, and our churches. When we receive others, we are able to show them the love that God has for us and them.
From this section of Scripture, we can also learn that hospitality is for the whole church. While individuals can practice hospitality, the whole church can work together to create a warm welcome and reception for people. I have seen how a whole church can work together to give hospitality to a visitor or new member. For example, not all of us are really gifted at being the hostess of a party. I know that I am not the best at bringing people together by being the hostess of a party. However, I have seen my aunt in action, and she has the natural gift to do that. She is not as gifted in other areas, and I am able to help her in those areas. The church works exactly like that. We all work together to welcome people into the church, which brings hospitality to the one being welcomed.
This may seem like I am taking a step back, but this is an important step in the process of hospitality. Before we can receive others, we must receive Christ. He is our example, leader, and reason we show hospitality to others. In Colossians 2:6-7, it says that we are to receive Christ and then walk in Him. If we do not have Christ, our hospitality toward others will be empty and in vain. Have you received Christ as your Lord? Today is the day to receive Him! We are not guaranteed tomorrow.
In Romans 12, Paul commends us to love one another and practice hospitality. How does he say that we can show hospitality? He lists these ways that we can show hospitality to those within and without the church:
- Let love be without hypocrisy. (verse 9)
- Abhor what is evil. (verse 9)
- Cling to what is good. (verse 9)
- Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. (verse 10)
- Give preference to one another in honor. (verse 10)
- Be diligent in helping one another. (verse 11)
- Be fervent in spirit. (verse 11) — Compare to Galatians 5:16-26.
- Serve the Lord. (verse 11)
- Rejoice in hope. (verse 12)
- Persevere in tribulation. (verse 12)
- Be devoted to prayer. (verse 12)
- Contribute to the needs of the saints, which are believers in the church. (verse 13)
- Practicing hospitality. (verse 13)
We can also see what hospitality does not look like:
- Pretending to love others. Wearing a mask of love and yet despising the people you serve. (verse 9)
- Loving what is evil. (verse 9)
- Clinging to what is bad. (verse 9)
- Be unfaithful, apathetic, indifferent, uncaring, negligent, and untrustworthy to one another in apathy and a lack of faith. (verse 10)
- Reject one another in dishonor. (verse 10)
- Be careless, disinterested, idle, lazy, unconcerned about the tiniest thought of helping someone else. Be more interested in helping yourself. (verse 11)
- Be apathetic, indifferent, insincere, and uncaring about what the Holy Spirit is doing or wants to do in your life and the lives of the believers around you. (verse 11)
- If you are apathetic toward hospitality, you are not obeying or serving the Lord. (verse 11)
- Focus on fear, complaining, comparing your life to others, and wishing you had it better. (verse 12)
- Give up when the going gets tough. (verse 12)
- Be disloyal, unconcerned, and apathetic about prayer. (verse 12)
- Never consider about how you can sacrifice to help benefit the lives of the other believers around you. (verse 13)
- Believe the lie that someone else can do hospitality. (verse 13)
I do not know your heart or what you thought while reading the list of what hospitality is and what it is not. If you felt convicted in any area of your life, I pray that you will repent and take it to Jesus. He alone can change your heart to obey Him. Sure, you can try on your own and in your own power to live a life that practices hospitality, but in the long run, your practices will be wasted, empty, and in vain. Please reflect on how God is calling you to practice hospitality, and please ask Him for help in the areas where you fall short. Trust me, we all fall short. It is only Christ that can help us change forever.
In 1 Peter 4:9, Peter instructs us to show hospitality without grumbling. Hospitality is not easy; it is a sacrifice of time, energy, and money to love and help others. Therefore, if you do show hospitality to others, it is something you do from the heart, holding nothing back, and certainly not while grumbling and complaining. Showing hospitality is also not something to do as a way to gain the upper hand, show off to others, or feel like you are better than others. Hospitality is serving others for the purpose of pointing to Christ.
Not only are we to show hospitality to those whom we know in the church, in Hebrews 13:2, we are reminded to show hospitality to strangers. We are to be imitators of Christ (see Ephesians 5:1-2), and therefore we are to love others whether we know them or not. We could impact their lives for Christ by showing them hospitality, which is exactly our goal!
If you would like to read more about hospitality, please see these resources:
Do you feel gifted in the area of hospitality? What has been a time when you have been shown hospitality? How can you show hospitality to others?