Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
For the past three weeks, we have had the privilege of hosting a young woman from Taiwan in our home. She came to us because of a phone call from a Christian friend of hers. As a part of her schooling, she was doing a three week internship at our hospital and needed a place to stay. My wife and I opened our home to her, and it has been a delight. She returns to the Twin Cities today. It will be a little sad to see her go.
This morning, in my devotions, I opened my Bible to 3 John. It was the next reading in my devotional study. I don’t think it was coincidence that 3 John is where I landed today. This small letter is all about offering hospitality to other believers. In John’s day, there were no motels to stay in. As evangelists and other Christians traveled from place to place, they were dependent upon the hospitality of others. John makes it clear that showing hospitality in this way is a tangible and practical evidence of our love for Christ.
In many ways, true hospitality is a lost art in the Church today. People are reluctant to open their homes to others in practical ways. More times than not, when a missionary comes to visit our church, we end up hosting them, because no one volunteers to do it. I am not complaining or finding fault, but I am sad that others miss out on the blessing of showing hospitality.
There are many reasons why we are reluctant to practice hospitality today. Our lives are too busy. We fill our lives with so many activities that we have no room to include others. We have convinced ourselves that we don’t have anything to offer. Yet, many of us have a spare room that sits empty much of the time. We have become very self-protective, so inviting someone to stay with us is a threat. For many people, hospitality has been reduced to hosting a fancy dinner. Bottom line, it is often inconvenient and somewhat uncomfortable to open our home to a “stranger.”
As Paul states in Romans 12, hospitality is simply sharing what we have with others. When we purchased our home, we intentionally dedicated it to the service of Christ. The first night in our new house, we stood together in the living room and committed to use our house for God’s glory. Christ has taken us up on that commitment time and again. We have had people stay with us from over night to a year. We have regularly invited international students, and others, into our home for holidays and just as a place to get away. When our niece was attending the university here, we became the hang-out for her friends. This past 4th of July week we hosted 20 Brazilian students in our home for an evening and another half dozen people for a cook-out on the 4th. Hospitality has become a part of the fabric of our family.
A young friend of mine organized the Brazilians to come to our home. After he put out the invitation, several of the students asked why we would do this. A good question. For me, the answer is found in Matthew 25:31-40.
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Do you see it? Tucked away in the middle of this passage is the answer to the Brazilian students’ questions. “I was a stranger and you invited me in.” I struggled with this passage for many years, feeling guilty that I was not doing all of the things listed here. Then one day God made it clear to me that He didn’t expect me to do them all. He expected me to be an active participant with other believers to accomplish the whole. I was set free from guilt and able to embrace the ways that I could contribute. In some small ways, I have participated in all of the things mentioned above, but the one thing that God gave me a passion for is “I was a stranger and you invited me in.” That phrase has had a major influence in my life and my ministry.
As Christians, we cannot do everything. Not every Christian can preach a sermon, or lead a small group, or teach a class, or go to the mission field. But, we can all practice hospitality. It takes no special skills. It doesn't take enormous resources. It just takes being willing to share what we have with others, in love. It may be a little scary at first, but God will bless us, if we will take the risk.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
1 Peter 4:8-9