Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Holy Hospitality


The holiday season conjures up images of family gathered around an artfully designed Thanksgiving table with turkey roasted to golden perfection and steaming bowls of side dishes. Carolers singing around the neighborhood, breath wafting into the cold night. Folks serving food at the local rescue mission. Wrapping gifts for the underprivileged. Purchasing that goat or chicken for the third-world impoverished family.

For many, the holidays are a time to focus on giving in one form or another. After all, isn’t that the example God left us when He gave us that first Christmas bundle in the form of a baby? The Lord Jesus Christ, God with us, inviting us to know Him. To welcome Him, make Him at home in our hearts.

As meaningful as holiday outreach can be, God’s been tweaking my thinking of late.

Since mid-summer the Holy Spirit’s turned up the heat specifically in regard to the expression of hospitality through our home. “An open heart, open hand, and open home will change your world,” writes Chuck and Kathie Crismier in their powerful book titled, The Power of Hospitality. They
contend that hospitality is so vital to the Church’s outreach that it may very well be the key to reaching a lost world for Christ. Yet, in our busy culture, few Christians practice what Paul taught in Romans 12:13. Some simply shrug it off by saying hospitality is a spiritual gift they don’t have. Others insist hospitality is the role of the pastors and leadership.

However, this is far from biblical admonition. In addition to Romans 12:13, consider 1 Peter 4:9 addressed to all believers: “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.”

Throughout the pages of Scripture, God provides visual aids of His hospitality, beginning with the beautiful garden He fashioned for the first man and woman (Genesis, chapter two). Later, His servant, Noah, invited others into the ark of safety (Genesis, chapters 6-8). Then there’s Rahab who welcomed the Israelite spies (Joshua, chapter two) and the poor widow who opened her home to the prophet, Elijah (1 Kings, chapter 17).

Thousands of years later, God extended still another invitation for salvation through His Servant Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. While on earth, Jesus said He came to serve and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). In order to accomplish this, He often ate with the publicans and sinners, broke bread with the disciples, took respite in the home of Mary and Martha, fed the 5000, and dined with Zaccheus, which was viewed as unthinkable by the Jewish population given his profession: tax-collector.

Furthermore, in John 14:2-3, Jesus assured His disciples: “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself, that where I am there you may be also.”

All throughout Scripture, hospitality is the expression of God’s heart through His servants to others. It is the very heart of the gospel. God offers the invitation, and we either accept or reject His hospitality.

As a grateful recipient of His invitation, my heart skips a beat and my lips break out in a smile when I consider the future Marriage Supper of the Lamb hosted by Christ Himself for His beloved Bride, the Church (Revelation 19:6-9). Talk about hospitality! This is one meal that will outshine any church potluck or White House state dinner.

Yet, God does not mean for His people to merely receive. He wants us to extend His hospitality to others, so that He might draw them into His Kingdom for all eternity and encourage them in their spiritual journey once they receive Him. We love and reach out because God first loved and reached out to us. It’s that simple.

But in the midst of our busy lives . . . so difficult.

I suppose if I sift through all the excuses, practicing hospitality comes down to a matter of priorities.

What do I consider important and worth investing time in?

When I reflect on my past, I’m intrigued that my most meaningful memories, the ones that rise quickly to the surface, involve hospitality, either my own or that of someone else toward me.

Playing a game of Rook around an old Formica kitchen table with another young seminary couple in our newly-wed days. Receiving an encouraging card in the mail. Processing fresh strawberries at the kitchen sink with a friend. Extended family gathered around the picnic table, cousins splashing in a kiddie pool. Church friends laughing around a board game or working on an outreach project. Stirring a bubbling pot of chocolate as a teen with my friends as we whipped up batches of chocolate/peanut butter balls to send to servicemen stationed far away. Singing to the elderly in nursing homes. Tutoring a poverty-stricken boy in our tiny trailer. Discipling a young couple Chuck worked with at a metal factory.
Housing missionaries during annual mission conferences. Taking welcome baskets and tracts to new neighbors. Inviting a Vietnamese family to share a meal. Hosting Bible studies. Making a phone call to a discouraged believer. And yes, feeding the lonely at a holiday table.

Practicing hospitality can be exciting, invigorating even, since it can take so many forms as influenced by believers’ interests, personalities, resources, and giftedness. We simply become the “earthly carriers of a heavenly heart” as the Crismiers so beautifully state.

Our hearts, hands, and homes will only give to the degree we have first received God’s hospitality toward us. 
We give because He first gave. We were strangers to His love, yet He came to earth to invite us into His forever family.

This Christmas pay special attention to the stranger in your midst and purpose to practice holy hospitality. 

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Eileen Rife, multi-published author, speaks to women's groups, encouraging them to discover who they are in Christ and what part they play in His Kingdom story. Visit her Amazon Author Page here.





4 comments:

  1. This is a wonderful post....thanks for the reminder of the true meaning of hospitality. Have a blessed Christmas!

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