Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Pet 4:9)
Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Rom 12:13)
One of the marks of a Christian is practising hospitality. Whenever it’s mentioned in the New Testament, it is assumed as a staple part of the Christian life. However, lots of people don’t show hospitality to others. I have heard a wide variety of reasons for why people can’t or won’t be hospitable, and I think there are a lot of misconceptions out there. Here are ten misconceptions about hospitality I have heard:
These are all misconceptions—rather than excuses—because they stem from a misunderstanding of what biblical hospitality is. There is an underlying assumption here that hospitality involves mouth-watering three-course home-cooked meals served around a beautifully laid dining table in a pristine living room decorated to look like the latest IKEA catalogue. But when the Bible describes true hospitality, it makes no mention of appetizers, cake forks or allen keys.
The word used in Greek is philoxenos, which translates to “loving the stranger”. It’s not about cooking, or entertaining. First and foremost, hospitality is about showing love to others.
Hospitality is the result of a life transformed by Christ. Both in Romans 12 and 1 Peter 4, hospitality is mentioned as a mark of the Christian life. A practical result of being saved by Jesus’ death and resurrection is that you love everyone, including strangers.
This is because our desire to show true hospitality to others stems from understanding the hospitality that Jesus has shown us. He is the greatest example of true hospitality. For when we were enemies and strangers to him, he invited us into his Father’s house and prepared a room for us. Jesus did more than just serve us a meal; he loved us enough to serve us with his entire life. And as people who have been served by the greatest of kings, how can we do anything else but serve others?
At the heart of biblical hospitality is a humble willingness to serve others. It is not intended to show off what we have, but to demonstrate whom we follow.
In fact, hospitality is listed as a quality of someone suited for eldership, as outlined in both 1 Timothy and Titus. It’s expected that an elder of the church, a person who is meant to be an example for others, should show love to strangers—as a contrast to the leader who expects to be waited on. But we are all examples to each other of Christ; we shouldn’t leave it to our Bible study leaders or friends with food processors. We can all share the welcome that God extended to us.
So while a good meal and an IKEA dining table may help you to be hospitable, these things are not what hospitality is about. It’s possible to be sitting at a fancy table with delicious food while feeling exceedingly unwanted by the host! Hospitality is about the heart. It’s about serving people. The focus is not on the meal, or the space, the focus is on loving people and inviting them into your home, ultimately into your life. And hopefully they meet Jesus there.