July 4, 2016
CommonUnity – Week 4 – Hospitality
Today as we continue in our series on CommonUnity we are going to further explore the idea of what does fellowship and unity look like in a very real and practical way. We are going to look at hospitality and how we are to practice it in our lives.
Remember as we have learned that we are to devote ourselves (just as the early church did) to the spiritual discipline of fellowship and unity. As with any spiritual discipline it takes some effort on our part to make these things a part of our lives. Bible reading and prayer are not just automatic, we have to set our hearts to do them but as well when we do there is a greater blessing than we could ever imagine. The same is true with this discipline. It takes us getting out of our comfort zone and trusting God to do what he wants to do in our lives. But when we practice this disciple we will experience things in our lives that we would never experience any other way not through Bible reading, not through prayer. We will experience the tangible presence of god working through and in our lives. I believe that this is one of the reasons may Christians do not grow as much or as fast as they need to. The reason is a lack of true Biblical hospitality.
As we look at hospitality I think it is important to define terms. When you here the word hospitality what do you think of?
There are 2 greek words used in the New testament for Hospitality. The first word is philoxenia. This word is comprised of “xenos” or stranger, and “phileo” or to love or show affection. So the word literally means “to love strangers.”
A second Greek word for hospitality, xenodocheo is a compound of xenos, and dechomai, which means “receive,” “accept,” “take with the hand,” “give ear to,” “embrace,” or even “to receive into one’s family to bring up or educate.” Hospitality, then, extends even to taking by the hand and embracing into one’s family the other who has no share in or knowledge of one’s own identity and life and values.
Notice both of these words use the greek word xenos. This is important because hospitality in it base form means we are to reach out to the “stranger,” or “someone without the knowledge of, without a share in,”. We are to show love to them. We are to receive them, embrace them welcome them in. Bring them into our family! Hospitality was huge in the old testament. In fact many of the scenes we see regarding hospitality in the Old Testament, we see strangers entering into a city, or town or village and then someone extends an invitation to sit, relax and let me serve you a meal, get you something to drink.
The Old Testament culture was very different from ours. As people traveled through the land there were no McDonald’s or Starbucks’ to stop at when they got tired or thirsty.
When their feet were caked with mud and dried dust, they had nowhere to turn except to houses they passed. Travelers often relied on the kindness of strangers for survival and they took the call of serving strangers seriously!
“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. 34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” ~ Leviticus 19:33–34
In no uncertain terms, God commanded the Israelites to care for and love the strangers and travelers among them! Maybe they didn’t understand why God would issue this strong calling but all they knew was that God commanded it…and they should obey!
For the people of God in the Old Testament the duty of hospitality came right from the center of who God was. I am the Lord your God who made a home for you and brought you there with all my might and all my soul. Therefore, you shall love the stranger as yourself. The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy. (Leviticus 19:1-2).
One of the most famous scenes of Hospitaity is found in Gen 18:1-16. Here we see Abraham show hospitality to some visitors. In this scene we see that Abraham was eager to treat these strangers with Hospitality. He did this by humbling himself. He treated them like royalty and was extremely generous to to them. Come to find out they where angels from God. This kind of scene happens a few times in the Old Testament. The writer of Hebrews even alludes to these instances in chapter 13:2 “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” ~ Hebrews 13:2
In the New Testament we are commanded to show Hospitality. Inherent in the definition as we have seen we are to show hospitality to those outside of the church, but we are also commanded to show hospitality to each other. “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” ~ Romans 12:13
This is key to our unity and oneness. If we don’t open up our homes and lives to each other and invite the outside world in to see how we live and love we have no opportunity to show them how amazing life can be lived in fellowship with God and His family he has given us.
As we look at hospitality specifically as it is listed in the Bible it would be very easy for us to dismiss the idea as culturally irrelevant. You see in our modern context we don’t often have opportunity to to see strangers come up and ask to stay with us. But if we are devoted to developing this spiritual discipline in our lives we have to learn to invite people in. The problem we have in our lives is we have a very small group of people that we let in to our homes. The truth is we are uncomfortable with inviting new people in to our move protected space, because we have been trained that way. But Jesus wants us to be trained by the Holy Spirit to react differently than the way the world operates.
12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Do you see that? Jesus tells us there is a blessing that God desires to give to us when we practice the discipline of hospitality. Now this does not mean we cannot invite our friends over and have a meal together. That is absolutely a good thing. But if that is all we do we have missed the point. This is at the heart of of the great command and the great commission. Jesus calls us to show love to others. Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Who is your neighbor? Jesus was asked the same question. This is where we see the story of the Good Samaritan. In this parable Jesus reveals the neighbor is the one who reaches out to those who are not like him. The ones in need. The ones we can minister to. Let me ask you a question. What need does your neighbor have? Do you know them well enough to answer that question?
One of the most convicting passages in scripture is Matthew 25. I remember growing up and hearing a man named Keith Green sing a song based on this passage, called the sheep and the goats. He actually tied it directly to another song called Asleep in the Light. Every time I heard this song I was moved to tears. In fact, it was one of the reasons I gave my life to full time ministry.
34 “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. 35 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, 36 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.’
Keith at the end of his song stressed the only thing that separated the sheep and the goats was what they did and didn’t do. Theologically I think that was a bit of a stretch but the point is still true. We are called to show hospitality. We are called to invite people into our lives. Now some might say, Pastor I am too busy. or that’s just not who I am. I get that. But let me ask you, what do you do with verses like…
1 Peter 4:7-11
7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Let me give you a practical definition for Hospitality.
Hospitality is the divine enablement to share with others our home, our lives, our personal space and resources without communicating a need for performance or an expectation of return.
“Hospitality is a practical way to love others… Believers can uniquely display God’s love as they extend hospitality. Entertaining focuses on having a beautiful table decor or preparing gourmet food. Biblical hospitality is a demonstration of love. Food and other elements are merely tools used to express our love for people. Our motivation for being hospitable is a response to God’s work in our lives. Hospitality is one way we can tangibly demonstrate our love for God.” ~ Practicing Hospitality, Pg 50
Do you realize God showed us Hospitality? This is the very nature of God!
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
The truth is we have been empowered by God to treat others with hospitality. This is a partnership that we have with God. We are His hands and feet and to a world that needs us to show them how much God loves them, and how to be part of a loving family that lives in His love.
Practical ways to show Hospitality.
Have a cook out.
Greet those who walk into these doors.
Invite people to come to our cookout/picnics during the summer.
Ask someone to come to church with you and tell them you will take them to lunch afterwards.
For more from this series you can CLICK HERE.
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