Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4:9)
Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:13)
The 3 AM phone call shook the young pastor to his core. Just a few months ago his fledgling congregation had sent one of their beloved saints, we’ll call her Ann, out to be a missionary. Now she was coming home with cancer. She was in such pain from bone tumors that she had to be medically evacuated. An ambulance or someone with a van was needed to pick her up at the airport that evening.
The pastor didn’t know what to do as his thoughts began racing through all the things that had to be done. Ann lived alone, didn’t have much money, and didn’t have anyone to care for her except for her church family, so arrangements for her transportation and immediate care fell to the pastor. Prayer requests flew through the prayer chain and soon everyone was praying.
However, no one opened up their home or offered to care for her. Ann had no place to go. She didn’t yet need full-time nursing but she did need a place to live and someone to help her with meals, transportation to doctor’s appointments, etc. The pastor felt terrible – he wished that he could take her into his home but his wife and children filled up his little two-bedroom place. He asked many people in the congregation, but they all said that, “They didn’t feel led that way...” or “It wasn't their gift.” Apparently no one had the gift of hospitality.
The Lord heard the pastor’s prayers, though, and an older couple that went to a different church heard about it and took her into their home. They told the pastor, “It used to be that you didn’t have to pray about it or feel led to do something like this. You just did it because it was the right thing to do.”
It was the right thing to do – to help out someone in need – and the Lord blessed that couple with many memorable moments with Ann. Even as her health declined, her peace and joy in the Lord were a blessing to many people as they visited her and prayed together. When Ann went to be with the Lord, everyone knew that cancer was not victorious but that the Lord had used the cancer to bring home someone He loved very much.
Ann’s story is just one example of the gift of hospitality in action. Another example happened later on in this same pastor’s ministry, when he felt the Lord calling him to minister to the needy and homeless. He made connections with a local big box store and recruited volunteers to pick up the day-old items and distribute them to local food banks and shelters. Of course, his church had an ongoing ministry to the needy with a food bank and clothing distribution but he still felt like he should do more. He wanted to take in one of the homeless men that he had gotten to know but he just didn’t have room in the house and it didn’t seem wise either.
So when a camper was made available, he allowed two of the homeless men he knew to live in it behind his house. Everything went okay for awhile, but later on trouble developed and he had to ask them to leave. Later on he looked through some of the possessions that they left behind and he found pornography and even some photos that might have been child porn; he was glad he didn’t leave them alone with his kids.
"Even in a culture where we tend to cocoon ourselves in our homes and meet others in restaurants, we need to figure out how to be hospitable and offer the love of God to others in practical ways."
As the pastor reflected on this, he thought about another couple he had known years ago and the chances that they had taken as they served the Lord. They had started with a simple ministry of taking sandwiches to an inner-city park and offering them to those who were hungry. They struck up friendships with street people, fed them, and sometimes they even let them come to their home to take a shower and get ready for a job interview. Once in awhile, when the Spirit led, they even took in the homeless and let them stay with them while they found employment and got back on their feet.
That’s what happened many years ago, before the pastor knew the Lord. He was down and out, addicted and homeless, unable to see a way out. Then he ran across a couple who offered him a sandwich, and more importantly, some time and conversation that eventually led him to the Lord and a brand new life in Him. They took him into their home when no one else would and now, many years later, he had a life and a family and even a ministry that he would have never thought possible. All because that couple took a chance and offered him the love of God and the gift of hospitality.
Offering hospitality is powerful and potentially life-changing. Even in a culture where we tend to cocoon ourselves in our homes and meet others in restaurants, we need to figure out how to be hospitable and offer the love of God to others in practical ways. Some of us are gifted this way and it will come naturally, while others of us may have to stretch our comfort zones a bit to be obedient to the New Testament commands to offer hospitality.
Either way, let’s reach out to people and take them to lunch after church or invite them to our homes some evening. Let’s help the homeless by getting to know them and then taking them to the local rescue mission or giving them food or shelter ourselves. Let’s get involved in people’s lives and be led of the Spirit in how we can help them in a way that is safe and comfortable for everyone concerned.
No one can tell you the best way for you to practice hospitality – that is up to you and the Lord and the situations you encounter – but we can all rest assured that when we offer hospitality and share the love of God with people, we are very near to the heart of God.
Let’s Pray Together:Lord, I confess that I haven’t always offered hospitality when I should have. There have been times when I knew You were prompting me to take someone out to eat or invite them over to my home but I didn’t do it. It seemed like too much work or I didn’t want to get too involved. Give me an ear to hear You in times like that and help me to offer myself, my resources, and my home to others. Help me to be a living sacrifice that brings glory to you by being more hospitable and loving towards others. Lead me to opportunities where I can offer hospitality…. (continue praying as you feel led.)
Related Resources Radical Hospitality for the REST of Us -- This video has many practical examples of how we can offer hospitality as individuals and how we can encourage hospitality among our church members.