By Kevin Guigou – Associate Pastor
“Godly hospitality” describes an attitude and an atmosphere.
It’s the open-armed lifestyle of a Jesus follower in which we share food, a place to stay, entertainment or social activities—all in celebration of how God is blessing our lives.
Those activities build richer friendships with each other and with the Lord who brought us together.
We can experience hospitality among family, friends or strangers—either as a host or guest, but it can happen in any place where needs are being met. At those times, we’re embraced by welcoming arms and encouraged by words of love.
“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:13 ESV
“Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.” 1 Peter 4:9 NLT
Hospitality describes the fundamental way we think about people and about how we interact with them. Gathering to care for each other’s needs reflects an environment of empathy and generosity.
It’s providing an oasis of healing compassion in service to each other. It’s an exercise in building trust… a bidding into belonging.
The New Testament Greek word for “hospitality” is philoxenia. It comes from philos, “friend” and xenos, “stranger.”
Phileō love tends to emphasize a warm, friendly affection. And philadelphia refers to the love between siblings or brotherly love.
The hospitality of the early church was seen in a warm, friendly affection toward strangers or guests who were welcomed into a believer’s home or who were touched by their compassionate kindness anywhere they gathered.
“Keep on loving [philadelphia] each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality [philoxenia] to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! [likely a reference to Genesis 18:1-16; 19:1-3]” Hebrews 13:1-2 NLT
Secular people can also be hospitable, but when spirit-filled folks share food and drink by God’s inspiration, the impact can mightily promote the gospel… and we’ll enjoy the evangelism of it all!
YES! Campers enjoy evangelism, food, and each other around the Troy pool.
We’ll know who to spend time with, when to come together and where to meet. All involved can be closer to Christ from those occasions.
We surely experience these benefits during more regular gatherings of the church, but we need to enlarge our vision for open-armed social celebration happening anytime believers come together.
Joy Breeds Faith
Joy breeds faith. The church can grow around a dining table as much as in a pew. An invitation to lunch may reach someone’s heart quicker than an invitation to church or a Bible study. And we can expect to learn the Word and see miracles in every activity!
Gathering together to glorify God is an act of praise. It’s a natural pursuit as ambassadors for Christ. We’re setting the stage for all involved to be more reconciled to him. We’re overflowing the life of Jesus into each other.
Hospitality is being with the Lord by celebrating him with each other. It’s getting to know the Lord Jesus by interacting with him in each other.
Invite Others into the Kingdom
Our life is an invitation into God’s kingdom! When we open our arms to our world, we’re welcoming them into the Master’s embrace. Spirit-filled hospitality calls people home—into the living room of God’s presence.
Ironically, the disquieting image of the extended arms of Jesus on the cross should also remind us of his open, inviting arms to all people.
Image by Tony Melena
And our reaction is to raise our own open hands in praise to him and to open our welcoming arms in hospitality to each other.
God’s spiritual love is often best expressed in physical ways. Love is often best measured by time being invested.
Each of us can offer godly hospitality everywhere we go. We don’t need special training or lots of money to share a meal, house a guest or offer family love to somebody who needs to be heard.
We can invite someone over for a coffee or dinner; meet for dessert and ask them about their life; offer a couch to someone recuperating from an operation; celebrate birthdays or anniversaries on the town; cry over a neighbor’s loss; make a sandwich for our plumber; offer to give a friend a ride; spoil a stranger with movie tickets.
People may forget what we taught them, but they usually remember how we made them feel.
Among Old Testament mealtimes with great meaning are Eden’s forbidden fruit, the stew of Jacob and Esau, Israel’s Passover, the table of Psalm 23, the raven’s meals for Elijah, banquets of kings, and salt covenants.
Ministry = Service
Hospitality is a vital form of ministry. The New Testament word “ministry” means “service.” Its Greek origin referred to the activity of waiting on tables or running errands.
A minister is a servant. That’s why hospitality was an important characteristic of early Christian leaders and elders.
“… if someone is eager for the work of overseeing God’s people, the task they seek is a fine one. The bishop [overseer] must be beyond reproach… temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable [philoxenos], a good teacher. He must not be a heavy drinker, or violent, but must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not in love with money … [see also Titus 1:6-9]” 1 Timothy 3:1-7 (New Testament for Everyone—NTE)
“A godly widow was also described as being “well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble…” 1 Timothy 5:10 NIV
The four Gospels are full of Jesus enjoying hospitality and mealtimes with people. In Luke’s gospel, it almost appears that the Lord is always either going to a meal, eating a meal or leaving a meal!
Luke 24 records how the resurrected Jesus, with his identity hidden, discussed the story of redemption with two men on the road to Emmaus. They then strongly urged him to eat with them where finally “he was known of them in breaking of bread (:35).”
They realized the true identity of Jesus during a meal. God opened their eyes to the heart of their special guest (see 24:28-35; also, Revelation 3:20).
Come to Know Jesus
We can also “come to know Jesus” during meals with believers. A deeper understanding of Christ is often discovered while God’s people invest themselves in the pleasures of hospitality.
In the final scene of John’s gospel (John 21), Jesus prepared a shoreside breakfast for his fishing followers while he also prepared them for life after his ascension.
The book of Acts begins with a meal. Jan Magiera’s Aramaic Peshitta translation of Acts 1:4 begins, “And as he ate bread with them, he commanded them that they should not leave Jerusalem, but that they should wait for the promise of the Father [i.e., Pentecost]…”
This vital guidance was shared at the last recorded meal between the Master and his apostles prior to his ascension.
When the spiritual power of Pentecost exploded on the scene, Christ used hospitality as a central activity in building his Church.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 46…They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts…” Acts 2:42-47 NIV
One of the only physical activities that Jesus commanded that we continue after Pentecost was a special meal—the Lord’s Supper (communion) to regularly recognize the accomplishments of Jesus’s sacrifice until he returns.
Image by Mandy Fontana from Pixabay
The word companion comes from the Latin, com (“with”) and panis (“bread”) meaning, “one with whom bread is eaten.” In every culture, true companions are usually “bread-fellows!”
Even our word lord comes from an Old English term that literally meant “the one who guards the loaves.”
God intended for even simple mealtimes to be sacred occasions in our daily walk with him, not mindless moments in which we hurriedly stuff our faces.
“The table” of a believer is a holy intersection of worship and fellowship where lives are healed and molded.
Let’s use Godly hospitality and social celebration to promote the good news and to build kingdom lifestyles.