The biblical doctrine of hospitality has rich theological moorings and implications; for that reason it’s often misunderstood. Citing Rom. 12:13, some say we must regularly entertain one another in our homes or we are being disobedient. Pointing to 2 Jn. 1:10-11, others regard it as sin to allow a Jehovah’s Witness into their homes. Still others say that hospitality is an essential part of biblical, evangelistic methodology. While we can’t address all the issues and concerns here, let’s think briefly about hospitality for the sake of the kingdom.
In a scriptural sense hospitality is focused on the alien or stranger in need. God’s people received travelers in need of food, shelter, or clothing. They also cared for widows, orphans, and the oppressed. In a larger, theological sense, the bible depicts us as guests in need of God’s saving hospitality with Him as our host. We were alienated from God and in desperate need; God has provided for us and met our need in Christ. In another sense, we are host and God is guest in that we receive Him into our lives. More specifically, Jesus came to tabernacle among us and was rejected by His own. Yet, believers have received Him by grace. At the same time, we Christians are strangers and aliens in this world and find hospitality in Christ. We now, in Christ’s stead, play host to others that they mind find rest in Christ.
So, biblical hospitality is not necessarily having people over all the time, though one can see such activity as a picture of the biblical doctrine. True hospitality is about meeting someone’s urgent need. We can live that out by receiving needy travelers (though there is much less need for such in most of our contexts). We can also live that out through mercy ministry. And there is much more to be said in all of these areas and a number of additional things concerning hospitality another time.
But here’s what I want us to think about. While evangelism is not technically hospitality, it is a picture of biblical hospitality. If we combine our modern understanding of hospitality with evangelistic intentionality, we can minister to others with a very simple approach.
I want to suggest five ways you can be hospitable (even on Sunday evenings) that are rooted in gospel intentionality. And, I think you’ll enjoy them too.
First, by yourself or with a few others, invite some acquaintances over to dinner to build relationships in hopes of eventually leading them to Christ. Relaxed atmospheres and meals in particular are great ways to not only get to know others but to enjoy one another as well. Remember to ask them about their lives more than you talk about your own, listen attentively, and don’t force anything. Pray and let God open doors that lead to conversation about ultimate things.
Second, plan a “get-to-know-your-neighbors” cookout once a month or quarter. The idea is the same as above, only with more people.
Third, invite your neighbors to any party you have. We Christians should celebrate what God has done for us on a regular basis. As we do so, these are great opportunities to show others our joy in Christ. Whether you are celebrating someone’s birthday, a holiday, a graduation, or just having a dinner party, invite your neighbors or those for whom you are praying.
Fourth, invite unbelieving friends to watch football. This will not only be a great relationship-building time over something many of us enjoy, but it will provide a great opportunity to reflect Christ in the way you live and act whether you win – or lose.
Fifth, get together with someone or some families in the church you don’t normally spend much time with. Not only will you be able to share life with fellow believers, but such times will allow you to pray together for kingdom advance. That prayer time can be preceded by some brainstorming about how you can kingdomize your differing spheres of influence or how you all can engage in evangelistic hospitality together.
Being the aroma of Christ is something we are saved to be and something we are all the time (2 Cor. 2:14-15). We spread the knowledge of Him in different ways as we go throughout our daily routine. Having meals, celebrations, and (watching football for many of us) are part of what we do regularly. With a little thinking and effort, we can turn some of those times into evangelistic opportunity. It’s that simple.
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