Your home. Your apartment. Your condo. Your tent. Whatever it may be, God has already given you what is, to me, the biggest evangelistic tool you could possibly have. The place you live.
Hospitality is not mainly hosting parties. Biblical hospitality thinks differently.
Let’s dive in and look at the biblical view of hospitality. People have written tomes on this, so you can go read those if you want better answers. But hospitality has always been key to the life of God’s people.
The Old Testament—Caring for the Sojourner
In the Old Testament, hospitality dealt with entertaining strangers (Gen 18:2-5) and caring for the needs of the sojourner (Lev 19:33-34; Deut 10:18-19; 24:17-22). (It also was pivotal in the advancement of God’s mission through Israel [Josh 6:22-25]). The reasoning is simple enough—care for those who do not have a land or a home because you, too, didn’t have a land or a home when you were in Egypt. God’s people should understand sojourning better than anyone else, and that reasoning was simple enough (sounds very much like “Do unto others”). Along with that, and this is beautiful, if an Israelite became unable to meet his own needs, then a fellow Israelite was to take him or her into his home (Lev 25:35-36). Did you notice verse 35? If your brother becomes poor, treat him like a sojourner and take him into your home. Leviticus 19 says love the sojourner and do him no harm because you, too, sojourned. God uses the way he expects his people to treat strangers and applies that to how to take care of his own people who have need; and at the same time, he reminds us to care for people in need because of the way he cared for us.
Our hospitality and care for those around us, specifically those with great need, demonstrates how we understand God and our relationship with him.
The New Testament—Carrying the Mission
Not much changes in the New Testament, except that God’s people aren’t centralized into a nation. First, the home was an important place of Jesus’ ministry by being a place where people could gather and engage Jesus (Matt 9:10; 26:6-7; Mark 1:29-31; 2:1-3; Luke 7:36), where Jesus could minister to his disciples (Matt 26:18), and also for advancement of the gospel through the preaching of the disciples (Matt 10:11-14). Jesus had no place to lay his head (Luke 9:58) and yet his ministry flourished and actually leveraged (expected?) the homes of others. Have you ever thought that when you take the Lord’s Supper, you are commemorating the sacrifice of Jesus by partaking in a meal that he shared with his disciples in a borrowed house?
As we move into the church era, where the Spirit-indwelled people of God are to continue God’s mission in Acts, this only continues (and perhaps intensifies). First, the disciples were gathered in the upper room (Acts 1:12-13), waiting for the Holy Spirit in someone’s home (some believe this to be John Mark’s mother, as her home could hold “many” disciples [Acts 12:12]). Second, homes were regularly used as places of ministry and worship (Acts 2:46; 5:42), as well as where pivotal events happened, such as the overflow of the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles (Acts 11:44-48) and the founding of the church in Philippi (Acts 16:14-15). And, even negatively, when Saul (before he became Paul) wanted to go after those of “The Way” and put them in prison, he went to their homes (Acts 8:3). Beyond Acts, we know that churches depended upon the homes of others to meet and worship (Col 4:15; Phlm 1:1-2), and the author of Hebrews reminds us that treating strangers hospitably could have eternal outcomes (Heb 13:2).
Again, our hospitality demonstrates how we understand God and our relationship with him.
So What Now—Repenting of Home Idolatry
I said Sunday that I have great concern for people who claim a great walk with Jesus but don’t have people in their home. I understand that could be harsh-sounding, but I meant it. Our homes are not our own; they belong to God. Our homes are not sanctuaries from the world but sanctuaries for the world. I believe that many Americans and many Christians worship their homes. They worship the safety of their home, the comfort of their home, and the privacy of their home. They love that they can “let their hair down” in their home and really “be themselves.” I want to see that person; it may be much different from the person I see on Sunday morning.
What does it say of Christians if our costliest asset is not used for expanding Christ’s Kingdom but rather for our own pleasure?
I am well aware that God can use church buildings, coffee shops, businesses, and the like; but I strongly believe that the home has always been a vital part of gospel ministry, and I feel as if we’ve lost that. We must go to our God of grace and ask that we truly recognize everything we have as his. He’ll forgive, and we can be liberated from the idolatry of our home and be restored to the worship of our Savior.