As a newly-saved Christian, I was impressed by the kindness and sincere Christian hospitality that was afforded to me as a foreign student in England and Boston and then in New Jersey when I started working in New York City. Believers showed me they were truly concerned about my welfare by opening their homes to me, making sure that I had transportation to the meetings, and a place to go for a meal after the breaking of bread. They made me a part of their family gatherings during weekends and holidays and took care to ensure that I was growing spiritually as well. This made a lasting impression on me and I am grateful after all these years, and sorely miss many of those hospitable saints who have been called home.
The word for hospitality in the Greek means “love for strangers.” This love demonstrates itself through meeting the needs of people who pass our way. In the New Testament we read of hospitality for our brothers and sisters in Christ and also for strangers. We should be “distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality” (Rom 12:13). We are reminded, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb 12:2).
Motives of Christian Hospitality
In this fast-moving, busy, and “what is in it for me” world in which we live, we need to remember the true motive for showing hospitality. We read of the King who “answered and said unto them, Verily, I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me” (Matt 25:40). The motive is clear: the believer shows cheerful hospitality because of the love of Christ, our King, expecting nothing in return from the recipient of the hospitality. Further, the apostle Peter urges the believers to “use hospitality one to another without grudging” (1 Pet 4:9). We should be giving what is right and not what is left.
A good example of Christian hospitality is found in 3 John. Gaius was commended by the apostle John for being faithful in extending hospitality especially to the traveling preachers/ministers. He did it faithfully and consistently “to the brethren, and to the strangers” (v 5), did it with love and “after a godly sort” (v 6), in a manner worthy of God. In addition, Gaius did it “for His name’s sake” (v 7) which is the ultimate motive. Many have come to know Christ as their Savior through the hospitality of believers to total strangers.
Methods and Ways of Extending Hospitality
There are numerous ways that a believer can extend Christian hospitality. This is not confined to the assembly gathering or to individual homes. The challenge for us is to recognize the needs around us and provide for those needs of the believers and strangers with whom we come in contact. Sometimes it is sad to see that it is the same few believers who consistently extend hospitality to believers and strangers that may drop by. Extending Christian hospitality is not limited to the overseers of the assembly but to all that love the Lord; to do so is to act “faithfully” (3 John 5).
We sometimes hear that an assembly is quite “cold” and very few extend a welcome to visitors, or invite them to their home. Perhaps we should ask ourselves when the last time was that our home was open to the believers from the assembly and to visitors. One can find many excuses for not wanting to do so. When we hear the letter of commendation from a visiting believer read in the meeting, and Romans 16:2 is quoted, “That ye receive … in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist … in whatsoever business … hath need of you” do we take this seriously or just leave it for the overseers to handle?
Means of Extending Hospitality
We have tasted the goodness and kindness of the Lord. He is able to provide. To some He grants material wealth, to some physical health, and to some neither wealth nor health that they might be an example of faithfulness to God through the most difficult of circumstances. The goal is to glorify the Lord regardless of our level of health or wealth. Our home, apartment, or car may not be the greatest, but we are still able to extend help and assistance to others. We may not be the best of cooks, but often a simple coffee and donut in the home will do.
In conclusion, watch for those godly men and women who practice true Christian hospitality. Follow those that have a love for the believers and even strangers, an openness to befriend others who are new, a faithful support and encouragement to the assembly, and the love of seeing souls come to Christ. These saints recognize need and provide for the believers wherever necessary and are not selfish.