Christian hospitality is an overlooked spiritual discipline, George Barna writes in a recent daily Barna Highlight. As a set-apart people, Christians are called to practice gracious, generous hospitality.
“We practice hospitality by sharing our resources and our needs,” author and pastor’s wife Rosaria Butterfield writes, “as Jesus did when He walked this earth.”
Butterfield believes “hospitality works on the same principle as tithing. You are either giving, or you are receiving. You are either building up the body, or you need the body to build you up. All of us have a stake in hospitality because Jesus does.”
Hospitality is a two-way street. Devoted Christians not only show it by giving to others; they accept with gratitude and humility another Christian’s kind acts of hospitable compassion.
What is hospitality?
After more than a year of pandemic-related isolation from church, friends and even family, the spiritual gift of hospitality could quickly become a practice of the past. With many Christians still living in semi-lockdown for fear of contracting or spreading dangerous germs, showing Christian love to others has been greatly restricted.
Hospitality comes from a deep place in a Christian’s heart and soul, instinctively reaching out to offer the gift of verb-love (actionable love) to another person. The Apostle Peter encouraged Christians to “show hospitality to one another” (1 Pet. 4:9), and to do so kindly, eagerly, wholeheartedly and “without grumbling.”
Hospitable love is not merely a feeling, but a purposeful action. As C.S. Lewis writes: “Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.”
Followers of Christ are encouraged by Scripture to actively and joyfully reach out and touch hearts for Christ, a practice that helps unify Christian relationships and families, blesses and strengthens the church, teaches children to practice love toward others, and leads lost souls to know Christ. Christians who practice the spiritual gift of hospitality serve the church and the Body of Christ as they show Christ’s love to a hurting, lost, confused world.
Jesus showed compassionate hospitality
Jesus is our best model of showing hospitality. When He faced hungry people, He felt compassion and fed them (Matt. 14:18–21).
When His disciples feared a violent storm, Jesus calmed the waves and protected them (Mark 4:39).
On His way to Jerusalem, Jesus stopped in a village and healed 10 society-shunned lepers (Luke 17:11–19).
While He showed compassion and healing hospitality to the crowds, Jesus also focused on individuals who had verb-love needs that cried for intentional attention:
- He went into Peter’s house and healed his feverish mother-in-law (Matt. 8:14–15).
- He showed compassion and healing for a man born blind (John 9:1–7).
- He healed a paralyzed man and made him walk (Matt. 9:2–7).
- He “awoke” His deceased friend, Lazarus, as he lay in the grave (John 11:43–44).
Jesus accepted loving hospitality
Not only did Jesus show hospitable love, He accepted kind hospitality from others:
- Accepting expensive anointing oil poured on His feet from a disreputable woman (Matt. 26:7).
- Offering to have supper with a societal outcast perched in a sycamore tree (Luke 19:4–6).
- Eating at the home of Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters (Luke 10:38).
Ways to show Christian hospitality
During these days when people fear new and potentially more dangerous strains of COVID-19, Christians still can show hospitality in numerous ways:
- Writing Letters: Personal letter-writing, a show of hospitality from the past can be revived. Letters written and sent to family, friends, church members, neighbors and others show an investment of time and thought lovingly given to someone who needs encouragement, friendship and hope.
- Calling: A quick chat to say, “I love you, I’m thinking about you, I’m praying for you,” takes only a few minutes and shows another that he is loved, thought about and prayed for.
- Social Distancing and Germ-Safe Etiquette: When meeting in person, Christians can show love and compassion by being aware and thoughtful of another person’s susceptibility to illness, as well as his or her personal fears about contracting disease.
- Supplying Essential Needs: It has never been easier to help supply needs — whether food, medicine or other things. Hospitality through food and gift deliveries is as simple as making a phone call or clicking an Internet link.
- Helping Financially: Gifts of money for financially needy families present numerous opportunities for Christian hospitality these days, as people may be recovering from sickness, lost jobs and income, or drained savings accounts.
Still in the grasp of COVID-19, Christians may feel somewhat limited in fully practicing their spiritual gift of person-to-person hospitality. But we still can show love and kindness in so many creative ways, even in the midst of virus threats, therefore practicing the words in Hebrews 13:2: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers.”