Whether enjoying personal devotions, a Bible study, or a worship service, what mental images emerge when you’re presented with passages that encourage hospitality?
For many, the images mirror glossy magazine photos—an immaculate home, a gourmet menu, an exquisite table setting. And while some of these images could be applied to biblical hospitality in certain situations, what they actually portray is entertaining.
When hospitality is described in the Scriptures, there are zero instructions regarding home décor, menu, or table setting.
Let’s take a journey through Scripture as we paint a word portrait of biblical hospitality.
• According to John 14:15, 21–24, the primary evidence that one is a Christian and loves her heavenly Father is her choice to obey his commands. Though we live in a world that promotes “having things your own way,” I learned that to please the Lord I need to respond to all of his instructions with an obedient spirit, not just pick those that appeal to me—and this includes our response to what his Word teaches about hospitality.
• Romans 12:13b says we are to practice hospitality—literally, to “pursue the love of strangers” (Heb. 13:2)—not simply to hang out with our best friends. If we want to demonstrate obedience to our heavenly Father, we will practice biblical hospitality.
• 1 Peter 4:9 builds on the instruction to practice hospitality and reminds us that our attitude is of utmost importance—we are to practice hospitality without complaining. This verse challenges us to conduct a heart search to discern whether we’re approaching this opportunity to minister with a “hearty attitude” (Col. 3:23).
• We are reminded in Hebrews 13:2 that our willingness to extend hospitality may have far-reaching implications. If we study the lives of Abraham and Sarah (Gen. 18:1-3), Lot (Gen. 19:1–2), Gideon (Judg. 6:11–24), and Manoah (Judges 13:6–20), we learn that all entertained strangers were actually special messengers from God. While our motive should never be to give in order to receive, Luke 6:38 clearly states the measuring cup we’re to use to dispense our gifts and talents will be the same one used to provide our own. What’s the size of your hospitality measuring cup?
• Third John 7–8 challenges us to extend hospitality to those involved in vocational Christian ministry. It’s exciting to know that as we share our homes and resources with our Lord’s servants, we become an active part of their ministries.
• One of the requirements for individuals involved in church leadership, according to 1 Timothy 3:1–2 and Titus 1:7–8, is a willingness to allow others to observe them inside their homes—the arena in which their Christianity is most graphically revealed. Are you privileged to be in a leadership position in your church? If so, remember that these verses are qualifications, not suggestions.
Cultivating a Hospitable Heart
As we consider the scriptural passages that challenge us to practice hospitality, most of us can recall a time when we tried to extend friendship and were met with rejection. If you’re like me, Satan can use that rejection as a roadblock to prevent you from obeying God on future occasions.
If we are to cultivate a heart of biblical hospitality, we must refuse to rely on our achievements or to dwell on our failures. And we must lay aside past rejections and grudges. Instead, we must seek to climb the “hospitality mountain.” The work is not easy, but it’s worth it. The ascent begins with developing proper climbing strategies; here are some to get you started:
- Collect and file simple, inexpensive recipes for desserts and meals.
- Make a list of people who would be encouraged by your offer of hospitality.
- Make a plan to invite your first guests soon.
- Start simple—spontaneously inviting someone home after church is a great beginning.
- Pray that our hospitable God will give you joy in demonstrating his character to others.
- Remember that memories require time and energy to create.
- Purpose to nurture a heart for biblical hospitality that sincerely communicates: “Come back soon.”
Vehicle for Evangelism
The 21st-century church has cultivated highly sophisticated procedures and tools for evangelism. Training sessions, online and media resources, seminars, manuals, and methodology books are all available. However, as we study Scripture we also find that the home served as a center for evangelism in the early expansion of Christianity.
May God give us grace to respond to his welcome in Christ by welcoming others with gospel intentionality.