Hospitality. I hope you will see in this article that hospitality is an attitude. It’s a way of living and interacting with other people. Each of the following episodes is an example from my life where I received true hospitality.
Excellent Examples of Hospitality
She called me by a special name.
She called me “Brucie Whatoosie!” From the lips of anyone else, I would hate it. But coming from her it never ceased to make me smile. It was a name of endearment and meant acceptance and complete welcome. She was my best friend’s mom. We were just young teenagers, but I now realize how important it is for young teenage boys to have safe places to go, places where they can feel at total ease to be exactly who they are, pimples and all. All I had to do was walk into her kitchen and she would turn, bursting with a smile, and say “My Brucie Whatoosie! Come on in!”
He initiated friendship.
He’s a prominent economist widely recognized in the profession as a leading contributor in his field. Each day, many hours before the sun rises, he would awake to immerse himself in God’s Word, to celebrate his salvation with acts of worship, and to empower the day with prayer. God’s gift to him is an ability to thrive with only a few hours of sleep each night. He is, as a result, the most productive individual I have ever met, able to accomplish far more than most could ever dream of doing.
I had the pleasure of his company working at the same school. After a while, I perceived there was a regular pattern emerging in our interaction. I always seemed to walk away from our interactions feeling better about myself, more hopeful about the future, and more encouraged about today. Professionally speaking, he was in an elite league, yet I felt welcome in his presence. He had a genuine interest in my welfare. I also recognized that our discussions were unbalanced in favor of my concerns and not by chance, but by the natural consequence of his attitude. He cared more about others than himself.
He brought us home.
My professor offered to conduct our course in his home. Once a week our class would descend on his abode. There was always some light refreshment and a pot of coffee going for us. The class was held in his library, his personal sanctuary of learning. Occasionally he would go to one of the books, pull it off the shelf, open it to a familiar page, and, holding it like a dear friend, present to us some valued treasure of thought. The evenings would pass too quickly.
She prepared for my arrival.
I am pretty sure that I started to love my wife before I started to love her mom but I’m not sure. It’s a close call either way. I dated my wife for five years before we married and as a result of our rather extended courtship, I wound up spending a lot of evenings in her home. I have vivid recollections of coming over on weekends and being greeted with the delicious smells of something freshly baked. It didn’t seem to take my wife’s mom very long to find out what I liked and enjoying good food was a common occurrence in her home. She had the ability to make you feel like it was prepared just for you.
Gaius’ Example of Hospitality
The third letter of John in the Bible was written to Gaius, a man whose hospitality was recognized throughout the church and whose reputation has been preserved for us today to serve as both an example and encouragement to be hospitable people.
John writes to Gaius saying,
Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God . . . .We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth. (3 John 6, 8 NIV)
And Paul mentions him too: “Gaius, whose hospitality I, and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings” (Romans 16:23 NIV).
Gaius willingly opened his home and welcomed itinerant servants of the church who found themselves in need of a place to stay. Gaius was pleased to offer food, shelter, and whatever else might be needed. When they left, he sent them off in a manner that was befitting their service to the church.
What Is Hospitality?
Through the examples from my own life, and through what we hear from God’s Word about Gaius, it’s clear that hospitality is more than just the act of meeting physical needs. It’s an attitude.
Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (1 Peter 4:9-10 NKJV)
When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. (Romans 12:13 NLT)
Hospitality is a gift we give because we know we have received God’s welcome, so we welcome others. It’s an attitude of generosity, and not of grumbling. And, it’s something we practice and grow in.
What Does Hospitality Look Like?
Hospitality is manifested by the patterns of how we treat other people. When a person comes into our life, it’s an opportunity for us to either give or to take. We can use the encounter, however brief, to exclusively serve our own purposes or we can try to meet some need, large or small, for the other person as well.
Hospitable people always seem to be on the lookout for ways to help someone that crosses their path. Hospitality is oriented towards others:
- It’s the person who greets the grumpy clerk with a smile.
- It’s the teacher who gravitates to those insecure kids when mom or dad drops them off.
- It’s the friend who is willing to listen instead of dominating the conversation.
- It’s the nurse who says a sympathetic “ouch” when she sticks her patient with a needle.
- It’s an individual who is quick to greet a new-comer in church.
- It’s the boss who goes out of his way to make certain a new employee’s first day on the job is a good one.
The Best Example of Hospitality
Christians, as followers of Christ, should be the best examples of what it means to be hospitable. Hospitality tends to draw a crowd. Inhospitality inevitably repels people.
A wide range of people were drawn to Jesus. He attracted professionals and prostitutes, laborers and lawyers, men who hunted for fish and men who hunted for taxes. Women, men, and children of all stations of life were drawn to him.
To be sure, there was always a certain sense of uneasiness among the unholy when they were in close proximity to the Holy One. The proud, self-righteous, and rebellious were never at ease anywhere near him.
But sinners who were open to the work and ministry of Christ were truly comfortable in his presence. They sat at his feet, laid their head on his shoulder, and ate with him. In his presence, they felt welcome and when they went away, they were better for having been there.
Philippians 2 talks about the incredible hospitality of Jesus and how we ought to imitate him. It says,
Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross. (2:4-8 NLT)
Jesus met our greatest need through his own act of enormous hospitality. He saved us from our sin’s power and punishment and made a way for our relationship with God to be forever mended.
If we are as hospitable as Jesus was, what a difference that could make in the world!
Like many things, I agree that hospitality is easier to talk about than it is to practice. You know what they say about practice—it makes perfect.
When Have You Experienced Hospitality?
How about taking a few moments to reflect on those people in your own life who have exhibited this kind of hospitality? Maybe make a list of four or five, like the ones I shared with you.
It will bring a warm glow to your heart if nothing else. But I believe that these dear people in your own experience will confirm for you the importance of hospitality and will encourage you to go and do likewise. Thank God for them, and ask God to give you the gift of a hospitable heart.