by Mary Clare Freel
The pattern of hospitality starts with leadership. Elders and deacons are servant leaders and pattern hospitality to the body they serve. They are given to the church for the very purpose of equipping the saints to minister in the body of Christ. See I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.
A word to elders’ wives: Much falls on you here. Your attitude towards hospitality is a key element in your husband’s success as an elder. A good deal of shepherding can take place in the context of your home.
But all believers are expected to practice hospitality. The rest of you are not off the hook. The congregation cannot leave hospitality in the hands of the elders. Some are gifted with hospitality, but we are all told to practice it. It is a way that our love for each other is acted out.
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Romans 12:9-13
Note, we cannot pick and choose how to love. We are responsible for all the commands above. Love is very practical — not a mushy feeling that fluctuates like the weather. None of these aspects are always easy, nor are they always convenient, but all are important.
As Christians, our homes belong to Christ, and we cannot have the mindset that, “This is all mine, and I don’t want any of it messed up.” We have been purchased by the blood of Christ, and all we have is provided by God to use for His glory — money, time, food, clothes and our homes. We are stewards and must use them wisely, but always with a loose grip.
If all this sounds foreign to you, and the idea of serving someone is repugnant to you, maybe it is time to search your own heart. Maybe you have never considered where you are in relationship to God. If you have not humbled yourself before Him in repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that is the matter at hand for you. Your are not one of His servants. Either you are a slave to your own sin or you are a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no greater goal or higher purpose in all of life than knowing and serving the Lord Jesus Christ. To have a relationship with the Lord of the universe is what you were created for.
The home is a useful tool in the service of the King. Consider how to serve God with your homes. Pray and ask Him to show you opportunities and make you willing. Be ready to respond accordingly because opportunities will certainly come your way. They may come in the form of little children. I used to find myself grumbling about the neighborhood kids playing at our house so much. They are food vacuums and mess makers. Jesus reminds me in the gospels that to give a cup of water to a little child is a way of serving Him. It may not be children. It may be distressed souls. It may be a neighbor suffering in her marriage. It may be the elderly. It may be anyone.
Be proactive in hospitality; don’t just wait for the perfect opportunity. Invite people over. Volunteer to host church activities, depending on the room you have. Manage your home well so you are not thrown off by spur-of-the-moment guests. You don’t have to be a great housekeeper to be hospitable, but it sure helps to be organized. Keep your pantry stocked. Efficient cleaning routines are helpful. Involve your children.
Be sensitive to those who live in your home when considering hospitality (i.e., roommates, parents, your own family). In your zeal, don’t forget to be considerate of them. If you are unable to practice hospitality in your home, you can offer to help to host a fellowship dinner with a friend at her house. A heart of service is the key. God knows your heart and will honor your willingness to use what you have for His glory.
I hope you see from Scriptures that it is the responsibility and privilege of all in the body of Christ to share in the ministry of hospitality. In our next post we will discuss the various ways hospitality is used for the advancement of the kingdom of God.