When thinking of the biblical meaning of the word “hospitality,” we understand that it is not simply the entertaining of good old friends but the practical love of strangers. This means that true hospitality is, before all, a characteristic of God Himself, and here’s why.
God’s mighty arm created the world and everything in it. Then man, the crown of His creation, rebelled against the authority of the Most High and plunged all of humanity into sin and suffering, death and destruction. Sin positions all of us as enemies of God, guilty of breaking His Law, and corrupts our hearts in such a way that we become haters of good and lovers of evil.
Treason against an infinite God demands eternal punishment, and divine justice would see that every sinner is prosecuted and every sin paid for. God cannot be merciful at the expense of His righteousness, and that would have left us all on the receiving end of His perfect, eternal judgment, also known as hell. I say “would have” because this is not where the story ends. In God’s infinite wisdom, He devised a plan whereby guilty, hell-deserving sinners can yet be shown mercy and be welcomed hospitably into His holy presence.
About 2000 years ago, the Son of God entered His creation as the man Jesus of Nazareth. He came as a stranger into His own property but was shown no “hospitality” by its temporary occupants. Not only was there no room for Him in the inn at His birth, but the Scriptures tell us that “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” The only place men saw fit for the sinless Son of God was nailed upon a Roman cross.
Nevertheless, all this was not the worst that would happen to Jesus! His was not merely meant to be a martyr’s death, showing a good example, but an atoning sacrifice through which He would take the place of actual sinners. If in His life He suffered at the hands of evil men, at His death He would suffer at the hands of a holy God. This time He would suffer not because of sinners, but for sinners, bearing the burden of guilt for their wrong-doings and paying the entire debt they owed God. It was on the cross that Jesus cried out the words of the ancient song recorded in Psalm 22: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” His rejection by men in life pales into insignificance when compared to that forsaking by God in death. This was for Jesus “Hell on Earth,” as He literally became the substitute of those who would believe on Him. His sacrifice was received, and three days later Jesus rose from the grave triumphant over death.
All this was absolutely necessary if God was to welcome sinners into His gracious presence. This is hospitality at its finest – receiving your enemies at your own expense. God now embraces with open arms all who come to Him by faith in His Son. The invitation has gone out into all the world and no one is excluded. Whoever you are, God welcomes you in Jesus Christ! Come to Him, and then invite others also.