Exploring Biblical Hospitality, Part 1

We’ve had some sickness this past week. Head colds. The blahs. Last weekend, after a particularly whiny and complaint-filled morning, my dh decided to make “complaining” the subject of a “here and now” home Bible study. Using the appendix in the back of his Bible, he quickly looked up several scriptures and read them to us…and this one from 1 Peter really spurred an interesting conversation!

1 Peter 4:9,”Be hospitable without complaint”…

Sure, at first read-through, taking this verse at face value simply verifies what we all know: Christians should practice hospitality. But the “without complaint” part deserves equal consideration!

Practicing Hospitality With Strangers

My Unger’s Bible Dictionary makes the interesting point that Biblical hospitality focuses largely on reaching out to the strangers among us. Read the following in light of 1 Peter 4:9, “Practice hospitality without complaint.”

Luke 14:12-14, “And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, ‘When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.'”

Job 31:32, “”The alien has not lodged outside, for I have opened my doors to the traveler.”

“For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.” Matthew 25:35-36

Hebrew 13:2, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

I don’t know about you, but it somewhat daunts me, considering the times we live in, this idea of welcoming strangers in my home. However, the flip side is that kind acts by strangers are not soon forgotten. I’ll forever remember the time our small town librarian introduced me to another homeschooling mom browsing in the library. Five minutes of chatting later, I found myself promptly invited over for grilled cheese and Campbell’s soup–that same day!

My brother shared recently what he calls a “God Appointment”. He stopped to help a family stranded by the roadside. The car’s owner said at the outset, “This is God’s car and it’s in His hands”…to which my brother replied, “That’s great if you access God’s car through His Son Jesus Christ!”

This family ended up being a homeschooling family, the father is a prison chaplain, and they spent two or three days hanging out with my brother and his wife and kids (who also homeschool), having a great time while the car was in the repair shop. And my brother just about didn’t stop to help them. Ultimately, he felt convicted that if it had been his family, he’d have wanted someone to help them. Well, strangers they may have been, but it was family…brothers and sisters in Christ!

Hospitality is more than just opening your home up to others. It’s opening up your heart. We should do this everywhere. In the line at Wal-mart. At the park. On vacation. At church. We may do it with trepidation but we’ve got to do it without pride, without prejudice, without expectations, without complaint.

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself…” Pretty straight-forward stuff.

Part 2 on Monday… Practicing Hospitality Within Your Family

Our family pow-wow about “practicing hospitality without complaining” brought about some Divine changes!

12 thoughts on “Exploring Biblical Hospitality, Part 1”

  1. Well, Mary, this is a touchy subject. It is so easy to extend hospitality to the family and friends you love but there seem to be a million reasons to withhold it from others. Unconsciously do you think we might extend it thinking it will earn us a ‘return’ hospitality since ‘its our family after all’?

  2. I doubt that we subconsciously do that with family…maybe with friends? I know when I have family over it’s because I love any excuse to do so. Inviting strangers in would sure take a lot more guts. I guess that’s why neighborliness is dying in America. That and we’re all too busy networking with our own good friends and family and church projects.

  3. Amen sister. I truly think we need to care about one another…the world could be a lot different if we got away from our ego based society.

  4. Wow, what a subject. This has always made me nervous. My dad brought home 3 “strangers” that I remember. A hitchhiker who stayed a few days. A homeless man who was looking for work at my dad’s workplace who stayed a couple of weeks. And then there was a woman who knocked on our door at 2am one night because she claimed our house was the only one with a porch light on. My parents ALWAYS left a front porch light on. Then there was a union uprising of some sort in Poland in the early 80’s I think, and some people there were given the choice to go to prison for forming unions or be shipped overseas. My parents hosted several families over the course of a couple of years (total, not each) and they stayed a month or two until they found work and a place to live. All our old furniture and stuff saved for yard sales helped them start out. Very few knew any English, and we knew no Polish, but they were so exited to have a helpful start. They came with entire families and 2 suitcases all together. I’ll never forget that. They were friends to my family to the end, attending both my parents funerals.

    So, it was a little scary but I got married and thought I’d never have to do that again. Ha!

    My dear husband brought home Marty one day. He was an emaciated homeless gentleman on a bike with a cart and a dog. He had unfortunately chosen a windy steep road to get across the hills between the SF Bay area and our Central Valley. His cart was not attached well enough to make it, And it was too steep, for my husband commutes on this busy road and knew it was going to get worse, so he offered Marty a ride, put his bike, belongings, and dog in the back of his truck. Well after visiting with Monty on the ride, my husband decided to invite him for dinner and a rest at our home. He didn’t call me on the way home…

    Monty arrived and I was nervous. He had straggly hair, an eye that strayed, and he didn’t smell but needed a bath. Or his clothes did. Did I offer to do that? No. We visited a little and he finally asked for a cup of water. Humiliated at my fear and lack of hospitality, I got him one. I remembered the verse about offering a cup of water to the least of these… What if this was Jesus? Deep breath. Monty stayed. He was fighting bladder cancer and didn’t want to go through the procedures outlined to him by the doctors. He didn’t want to financially or otherwise burden his daughter, so he became homeless on purpose. He took everything he had, put $30,000 or so (his entire estate) in a savings account, and started traveling. He had been a year and a half on the road and had many adventures. He was a Christian, and didn’t look half bad when my husband gave him a haircut. When I asked him his preference he only ever requested fresh fruits and vegetables. I asked him about the cancer and he told me many things about alternative diets for healing. I had a juicer, so I juiced carrots and greens for him. I never saw someone so quietly grateful.

    He camped on the end of our property for almost 3 months. He loved coming to church with us and he never harmed us or our place. He helped split many cord of wood with our teenage son. He was quiet.

    Then, for me, the ultimate person needed a place to stay. My own older brother had abused his family, was in jail, and had no home to go to when he got out. He was an alcoholic, and had caused me no end of pain while growing up. I didn’t even like him. I had bitter memories of him and certainly didn’t want him day in and day out with my children. Another deep breath. My husband said to give it a try. He reminded me I didn’t have to have faith in my brother, but in God. So really long story (post) shortened, he lived with us for 2 years alcohol free and worked for my husband, and came to church with us. At the time we lived an hour out of town up a windy road on 80 acres with no neighbors we could see. He was basically stranded. A couple of weeks into the adventure I insisted that my husband take him to work and teach him some carpentry. Now every time I talk to my brother he reminds me to thank Dan (my husband) for giving him a skill. He got his own California contractors license last year and has his own business. He didn’t get saved, but he didn’t harm our children. And most of all he got to see how a decent family operates and works things out.

    We also took care of my parents at their own home as they died of cancer within 9 months of each other. We just moved in and helped. We took care of my mother in law who had had Alzheimers for 11 years and spent her last year in our home bedridden until the moment she died. My husband had an unmarried Aunt who we rented a house down the street and cared for 2 to 3 times a day until she passed on too.

    I’d really rather have friends over for dinner.

    But God called us to take care of those who need it. Sometimes it’s easy, but most of the time it’s just doing what needs to be done. God has protected our family, and taught us a great deal along the way. Our children know how to give up their only bedroom for their grandma who they never knew healthy or in her right mind. For a year.

    Our marriage was strengthened so much in the beginning years with all of this going on between having babies and burying all of our parents. Settling everyone’s estates was amazing but accomplished.

    Long comment, but your post opened up memories for me.

    Hospitality can be sweet in the memories.
    Cena

  5. Thank God for His dear Cenas! What a demonstration of His mercy and grace. Glad you chose this topic, Mary, so we could hear from Cena! Mom

  6. Well, I just re-read what I wrote last night and there were lots of typos. “Marty” should have been Monty all along…What a memory. I don’t know if he’s died from his cancer or traveling around still. But I know I’ll see him on the other side of this life.

  7. It’s true. We were on our way to college one fall, and our van broke down, and another Christian stopped by to help us get to the next exit where we were able to get a tow.

    Kindness and love through Christ could change our world, if we practiced it. We’ve convinced ourselves, however, that God isn’t strong enough to keep us safe.

    MInTheGap’s last blog post..What To Do With a Lame Duck

  8. Thanks, Juli! And I’m feeling ultra convicted after reading Cena’s comment!

    Cena! Wow. I’m echoing my mom’s comment, that I was so blessed by reading your hospitality “memories”, and seeing how God used you guys AND protected you, b/c MIn’s comment about not being convinced that God can keep us safe really hit a chord in me. My dh and I have always resisted the idea of doing foster care, for instance, because of the possible negatives to our family. What a terrible excuse in light of this. We have family members like you, who in years past have opened their extremely rural home to people in need of hiding (from Satanists) or people w/o an income, and it always impacted me that a normal family would be willing to do that! Awesome. I can’t wait to share your comment with my husband. I know he’ll be extremely touched as well. Thank you for sharing this, sister, and I can’t WAIT to meet you in real life or Heaven, whichever comes first! ((hugs))

    Mom, isn’t that the truth! Since Cena doesn’t blog, I’m sure glad she shares here from time to time, she’s taught me so much in the short time I’ve known her…about 8 months…

    MIn, thanks for making me think by cutting straight to the heart…God is strong enough…what a way to develop our trust in Him! This would be a neat topic for Weekend Kindness, or maybe a challenge??? πŸ˜‰ Yup, I know I’m way overdue in posting over there…you still my friend?

  9. Oh, Mary there are horror stories out there for sure. Some turn out well and some don’t. I do know of a couple in the Bay area who do foster care for newborns exclusively. These are always drug babies taken away from the birth mother and it’s so sweet to see them always with a new baby in a carrier. They only have them for a few months usually, but they’ve gotten used to the changes of the coming and going. Usually the babies are adopted or given to caring extended family so it’s not as hard to let them go. And the babies are so sweet, getting ton’s of holding and attention. They’ve learned a great deal about attachment disorders and basically hold and touch the babies constantly. It’s a ministry. And their other children are safe, actually most of them are older now.
    There are options for hospitality to strangers even when we are not sure about opening our home to evil. God would have to come right out and speak audibly to me to do some things! There is actually no end to the opportunities. There’s a new hurricane almost annually now displacing families who need help. A local food pantry is great to get involved with too.

    I wish you were my neighbor too.

    Jessica and Joel are still “dating.” They are doing well and staying the course. It would be awesome if they married, her first boyfriend.

    Cena

  10. I know what you mean about opportunities abounding…we’ve heard of some over the years…from opening your homes to give people a start in the USA to as you mentioned, housing hurricane victims. I can’t imagine how we’d be able to afford it…though if our upstairs was heated and aired it would be an ideal little apartment for someone in need. Right now it’s one of those “old farmhouse” upstairs, with a tiny curved stairway, no insulation up there all hard wood floors etc. Can’t wait till we can earmark funds to make it usable, as we could REALLY use the space. But I think you and I have had this conversation before! πŸ˜‰

    I’ve done some research for some of my previous “novel ideas” on homes for children, and uncovered some hard-to-read stories of drug babies…poor little things. I can’t imagine what kind of precious souls it would take to dedicate their lives to these little ones rehabilitation. I’ve heard that the cocaine withdrawal for a newborn is horrendous, that they scream and cry constantly from migraine like headache pain. I can’t think about it w/o crying.

    I’m so glad to hear the “progress report” on J&J!!! I do wonder about them every time you comment here! That is great news…and I understand your hopes! I can’t believe I’ll be going through the same things with my girls in just a very few years! Time flies…

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