In the book of Romans, Paul lists defining characteristics of a true believer. Among virtues such as love, service to others, and prayer, Paul tells believers to, “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (Romans 12:13)
A simple definition of hospitality is “the act of being friendly and welcoming to guests and visitors.” In essence, hospitality is one way generosity is put into action. Rather than holding tightly to your own time, space, emotional capacity, wealth, security, and privacy, hospitality is a challenge to live and give selflessly.
A Picture of the Gospel
Lived out, hospitality is a beautiful picture of the gospel! Consider all the ways God shows us hospitality. God so loved the world, He gave His one and only Son (John 3:16) in order to welcome us into his eternal kingdom (2 Peter 1:11). He invites us to feast at His table (Matthew 22:2). He adopts us as His own children (1John 3:1). Our Father hears our requests and offers a listening ear (Psalm 5:3). He bears our burdens (Psalm 68:19). God offers us shelter and rest (Psalm 91:1). And He promises us an inheritance that’s undefiled and kept in Heaven for us (1 Peter 1:4). Hospitality clearly matters to the Lord and it should matter to you as well.
A Call for God’s People
Rather than being a personality trait only some people are blessed with, hospitality is a command for all God’s followers. So, forget the excuses that you’re too busy, your house is a mess, you’re an introvert, or you aren’t a good cook.
You are called to practice hospitality without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9) not only to people you know but to strangers as well (Hebrews 13:2). Keep in mind that hospitality is different than entertaining. Your guests won’t care if you have a luxurious table scape and three course meals. What they’ll remember is how you made them feel loved and welcomed.
As you seek to follow the Lord’s instruction to practice hospitality, and thereby live out the gospel in your everyday life, here are a few ideas to get you started.
Sharing a Meal
All people have a desire to belong, to be known, and to feel part of a family. Whether strangers, friends, or people who look or believe differently than you, inviting guests into your home to share a meal is a wonderful way to offer generous hospitality. 1 Timothy 6:18 commands to those with means to “do good, to be rich in good works, and to be generous and ready to share.”
You can make the meal as fancy or simple as you like. The goal is to make others feel welcomed. If serving a full meal intimidates you, that’s okay. Start by inviting guests for tea, s’mores over the fire pit, or a game night with popcorn. Want to challenge yourself? Foster community in your neighborhood and host a neighbors’ cookout or lemonade on the lawn.
Don’t have time to prepare a meal? Show hospitality by taking guests out to eat. Hospitality can even mean taking a meal to a new mom, a grieving family, or to someone recovering from illness.
Hosting Overnight Guests
Offering guests a warm bed and a roof over their head is a wonderful way to show generous hospitality. Whether family coming to visit or friends passing through town, your hospitality can be a gift that makes others feel special and cared for.
What about opening your home to a missionary on furlough, a college student without family nearby, or to children whose parents need time to get on their feet? You may never know the long-lasting impact your generosity has on someone’s life.
In the Church
In a world where people feel isolated, lost, and unloved, the church, of all places, should be known for its generous hospitality. The church must follow Jesus’s example to welcome the poor, the lame, the children, and the “sinners.”
Perhaps your church already has a hospitality or welcome committee. If not, consider starting one. The chances of visitors returning to a church depend largely on how welcomed they felt. A smiling face, hand shake, and small welcome gift are great starters. Take it a step further and invite visitors to a Bible study, small group, or out to lunch.
Look for Opportunities
As you seek to be generous in how you live out the gospel, ask God to bring opportunities for hospitality across your path. Then wait and be ready to be used for good in someone’s life.