by Mike Farley on September 13, 2022
September 30, 2022
Would you think it strange if I said that “hospitality” is an important mark of a healthy church? It might seem strange if we think first of our own culture and language. We most often use this word to refer to entertaining friends at our home. The Bible, however, expands our concept of hospitality and commands us to practice hospitality in much broader way.
In the ancient world, hospitality meant offering welcome and all kinds of support to friends, strangers, and any people in need whom God brings across our path. We see this reflected in the Bible when God instructs us to “contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Rom. 12:13) and “do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers” (Heb. 13:2). And it makes sense why Peter would admonish the church to “show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Pet. 4:9), because biblical hospitality often requires more sacrifice of time and resources than just holding a dinner party.
Jesus challenged his world with the breadth of his hospitality not only in his own table fellowship with all kinds of people but also in his parable of the Good Samaritan, who cared for a needy stranger in a holistic way (Luke 10:25-37), and in his parable of the great banquet that included needy people who had no ability to return the favor (Luke 14:12-24). In her book Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition, Christiane Pohl notes that “the distinctive quality of Christian hospitality is that it offers a generous welcome to the ‘least’ without concern for advantage or benefit to the host. Such hospitality reflects God’s greater hospitality that welcomes the undeserving, provides the lonely with a home, and sets a banquet table for the hungry.”
Why does hospitality matter to God and to Central? We live in a lonely world where people need the welcome and care of a community. Recent studies have shown that more than half of adults in America report serious loneliness, and young adults and those with material needs feel lonely at rates up to twice those of seniors. Moreover, the experience of isolation during the pandemic only intensified this problem. But this crisis of loneliness and need is also an opportunity for the light of Christ to shine brightly through the church.
By his grace, God has welcomed and adopted us into his family, and his grace equips us to be his means of grace in the lives of others who need to be welcomed. How could we model this lavish grace of God by looking to turn strangers into friends in the church and in the places where you live? This fall, our church is going to place a special focus on being a hospitable community, and I pray that together we will share the gospel of God’s grace by seeking ways to welcome and care for lonely people in need in the church and in our neighborhoods. We might do this by offering a listening ear, a conversation over a meal, or practical help for people who need a place to stay or support in facing their problems. And I pray that our sacrificial welcome and care can be the door God uses to help many enter his kingdom because they both hear the gospel of Christ and also see it in action in our deeds of love.