The Hope of Hospitality
God’s plan for you includes hospitality! No man, woman, or child of accountable age is exempted from this over-arching plan and purpose of God for His people. It is so simple, so basic. It is an essential part of being made in the image of God himself. And its secrets are revealed as our hearts become honed to the heart of God.
Blessed to Be a Blessing
Abraham, the “father of the faith,” was called the friend of God (James 2:23). He seemed to connect with the heart of God. He was a man deeply committed to his own family, leading them in the ways of the Lord (Gen. 18,19). But he was a man who reached to strangers (Gen. 18:1-8).
As Abraham fed and fellowshipped with strangers in his tent, God chose to renew his promise of a son to this desert sojourner. God also gave Abraham warning of the impending destruction of the wicked society around him during this hospitality interlude between the divine and a desert nomad. And when the angelic guests had gone, Abraham, with a heart of divine hospitality, “stood yet before the Lord” on behalf of his neighbors whose lives were subject to impending judgment (Gen 18: 20-33).
The God who would be friend to man, reaching to span heaven and earth, promised to his friend Abraham, “I will bless thee … and thou shalt be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2). So that message would not be missed, the Lord who would become known as the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” prophesied of his friend, “all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him”. (Gen. 18:18). Yet when his wife, the mother of many nations died, Abraham revealed to the inhabitants of the land, “I am a stranger and a sojourner” (Gen. 23:4).
Believe it or not, you and I are blessed to be a blessing. We are blessed with faithful Abraham (Gal. 3:9). If you be Christ’s, if you are a born-again, Bible-believing Christian or a Jewish believer in the Messiah, “then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). Put these words on your tongue … “I am blessed to be a blessing.” Say them out loud by faith and in humility. Agree with God and you too can be called a “friend of God.”
Why then did Abraham lament, “I am a stranger and a sojourner”? Planet earth is not a “friend to grace”. Neither are its inhabitants, unless they accept God’s extension of divine hospitality through His plan of reconciliation and salvation: Earth can be a lonely place.
Commanded to Hospitality
Hospitality is at the heart of agape love. It is the activating disposition of heart and mind that translates agape love into practical language understandable by every man, woman, or child. It requires no further explanation. True hospitality speaks for itself. It is understood with the mind, yet communicates to the heart. Hospitality is the language of the heart of God.
Hospitality is required content in the life expression of every Christian believer. It is an essential ingredient in “Christianity 101”. No discipleship effort, however limited or distilled, is complete without teaching by precept and example in hospitality. This may sound a bit foreign to our practice and strangely absolute, yet it is absolutely true. For hospitality is not a suggestion but a command.
“Use hospitality one to another without grudging,” warns Peter (I Peter 4:9). This affirmative statement immediately follows Peter’s exhortation. “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves;” (I Peter 4:8). Peter considers this area of our lives to be a deeply spiritual expression of the essence of our faith. And indeed it is. “Fervent charity,” observes the Apostle, “covers a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8). Neither charity nor hospitality will save us from sin, but they cover many of our failures in relationships with others that occur due to the weakness of our own flesh.
Prerequisite for Leadership
Hospitality lies at the heart of all legitimate leadership! Why? Because it is the very heart of God. It is impossible to truly lead with the heart of God unless you share the heart of God. And no man or woman can honestly, with full integrity of faith, extend his or her hand as the “hand of God” unless he or she possesses God’s heart of hospitality.
Consider these strong words of the Apostle Paul to his ministry disciple, Timothy.
If a man desire the office of a bishop (overseer or leader),
he desires a good work.
A bishop (overseer, elder, or leader) must be blameless …
given to hospitality. (I Timothy 3:2)
Notice! The person aspiring to a position of leadership or being considered for such a position must be “given to hospitality.” Notice again. Paul does not say “gifted in” but “given to” hospitality. Failure to honestly and accurately read and apply this requirement for leadership … yes even pastoral leadership, lies at the heart of much of our failure, as the Church to both equip the saints for true ministry and to accurately transmit the Gospel to an unbelieving world.
A cry has gone up across America and the world for authentic Christianity. Some of us claim to bear the absolute truth; others of us claim to officer Christian compassion. But the time has come for “mercy and truth to meet together” (Psalm 85:10). Hospitality is the enabling force … the connecting link.
No Believer is Exempt
Every true believer in Christ as Messiah must be “given to” hospitality! Christ came as an extension of divine hospitality. Likewise we, as “Christ-ones,” must extend divine hospitality. No believer is exempt.
The Apostle to the Gentiles was a stickler on the absolute essential of hospitality gracing the life and ministry of the believer. In his letter to the Church at Rome, he pleaded with the fledgling church: “I beseech you therefore, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). He followed this plea with a list of seven ministry gifts that broadly define the various ministry functions in the church. The listing of gifts is then followed by a listing of behaviors and attributes that are to characterize ALL believers in Christ.
There are at least 21 items on Paul’s list. Of these 21, at least eleven are directly related to hospitality and its expression:
- Let love be without dissimulation (phoniness).
- Be kindly affectioned one to another … in honor preferring one another;
- Distributing to the necessity of saints;
- Given to hospitality.
- Bless them that persecute you:
- Rejoice with them that do rejoice,
- Weep with them that weep.
- Be of the same mind one toward another.
- Condescend to men of low estate.
- Live peacefully with all men.
- If thine enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink.
It is important again to see how carefully Paul chooses his words. He says we must be “given to” hospitality, not “gifted in” hospitality. Peter confirms Paul’s viewpoint when he exhorts us, “Use hospitality one to another without grudging” (I Peter 4:9). Hospitality is a holy expectation from a holy people who profess to be the servants of a holy God. As it is written, “… as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation (life)” (I Peter 1:15).
Hospitality – Heart of Revival
The mind of revival is an awakening to truth leading to repentance. The heart of revival is an awakening of agape (unselfish, godly) love reflected in hearts of hospitality extending hands of hospitality and opening homes of hospitality.
When ancient Israel, the covenant people of God, forgot their Maker, they also forgot the heart of their Maker as expressed tangibly in their dealings with one another. Having abandoned God’s truth, they abandoned their godly commitments to each other. God then sent prophets to woo and to warn them. Although the prophets never used the word “hospitality”, they warned of the broken heart of God to the people as they trumpeted the truth that would restore the heart.
Isaiah is a classic case. In Isaiah 58, he lifts up his voice “like a trumpet” to show God’s people their transgressions. He speaks of a people who “seek me daily,” of a “nation that did (past tense) righteousness,” and of a people who seem spiritual as reflected in regular fasting. But Isaiah pierces to the heart of their worship, revealing a total lack of God’s heart of hospitality for those made in his image. Isaiah cries out …
Is not this the fast that I have chosen?
Is it not to deal they bread to the hungry, and
that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy
house? When thou seest the naked, that thou
cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from
thine own flesh? (Isaiah 58: 6-7).
Isaiah then describes one of the most thrilling pictures of what God will do among a covenant people who truly have his heart, allowing mercy and truth to “kiss each other.” It is a glowing depiction of what Christian Americans yearn for at the turn of the millennium after a generation of pleading with the Lord of the Church for revival. If you will obey God’s Word, reflected in real-life agape love, revealed in holy hospitality ….
Then shall thy light break forth as the morning,
and thine health shall spring forth speedily; and
thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory
of the Lord shall be thy reward.
Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer;
thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.
If thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and
satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light
rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as noonday:
And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and
satisfy thy soul in drought, … and thou shalt be
like a watered garden, and like a spring of water,
whose waters fail not.
And they that shall be of thee shall build the old
waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations
of many generations; and thou shalt be called the
repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to
dwell in. (Isaiah 58:8-12)
Promises do not come much better than that, do they? A renewed heart of biblical hospitality is both a pre-requisite for revival and a result of revival. Not only are personal, family, and community life dramatically affected by such change of heart but also the entire nation. Israel, America, yes any nation, can move from being a nation that “did” righteousness to being a nation that “does” righteousness. The rest will be HIS-story.
© 2000 Charles Crismier III
This article is an excerpt from Charles Crismier’s book, Hospitality From the Heart, Click here to order. This book will truly revolutionize your life and dramatically expand your practical understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ.