“Practise hospitality.”Romans 12:13
Christians are called to practise hospitality. Those two words from Romans chapter 12 are a summary of teaching that runs throughout the Bible. Yet, I wonder how often we think about what exactly that hospitality looks like.
Hospitality has perhaps lost something of its power in our modern world. We can talk about restaurants, hotels and the like as a ‘hospitality industry’ which certainly removes the deeply personal nature of hospitality in the Bible. When you make something an industry it becomes about processes instead of people, a reversal of the call of hospitality on those who follow Jesus.
Hospitality has been described (by an archbishop no less) as the art of making guests feel at home when you wish they were. Hopefully that was a tongue-in-cheek comment, because Christian hospitality is a lot more powerful. This kind of hospitality is a warm welcome, open arms, and making someone who is currently a stranger feel at home.
This call to hospitality had a very literal meaning for first century Christians. People who travelled were often in danger of being attacked and robbed. With no inns or hotels along the way, Christians opened up their homes to fellow Christians, most of whom were strangers. The welcome shown to fellow believers was such that people often pretended to be Christians in order to benefit from the hospitality of believers.
Our world has changed in many ways since the first century, but the call to hospitality has not. Every Christian ought to be on the front line of hospitality. We are to have open arms, open lives and open doors. We are to welcome the stranger, especially when it comes to the welcome of our churches. The actions of Christians in being hospitable is often the most powerful illustration of the gospel that people witness. A newcomer to church is likely to hum through the songs, forget the reading and snooze through the sermon. But they will never forget a welcome that is genuine, thoughtful and offered sincerely.
In doing this, we are reflecting God’s character to those who come across our path. After all, our hospitality is but a pale reflection of the hospitality God has shown us. He welcomes the rebellious into his presence, and offers to make his home with us. Our hospitality and welcome to those around us shows hishospitality and welcome.
So, how can we live and act in a way that maximises a picture of the grace and welcome of God? Sometimes it is in the small actions of handing someone a service sheet, or pouring someone a cup of coffee. But it is also being those who look for ways to demonstrate the goodness of God in the welcome and warmth we show to others.
That’s really what Paul is getting at here. Because he doesn’t really say ‘practise’ hospitality but ‘pursue’ it. He uses the same word he uses elsewhere to describe persecution, of one person hunting down another. So we are to hunt down, chase after, pursue hospitality. We are not to be welcoming just when the opportunity presents itself. We are to go looking and seek out those opportunities wherever they may be found.