Practicing Hospitality

Sun, Dec 23, 2018
Teacher: Tom Blackford
Duration:35 mins 25 secs

Message text

Practicing Hospitality
Romans 12:9-13

Good morning. We are continuing our study in the book of Romans chapter 12. There is a lot in Romans Chapter 12 to help us in our daily pursuit of being more spiritual. We are to give ourselves as living sacrifices to God; we are to renew our minds that we might prove what is the perfect and acceptable will of God. We have looked at some ways in which the Apostle Paul directs us towards that personal, individual spiritual sacrifice. As a reminder I will be using the King James or the New King James for most of the references.

I want to take a couple minutes and begin reading in verse 9 after which we're going to focus our attention at the end of verse 13 Romans 12:9-13 – “9. Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11. not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12. rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13. distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.” [NKJV]

In verse 13 Paul talks about contributing to the needs of the saints. Sharing with those who are in need, and we recognize our responsibility to look to the needs of one another in the family of God. Be willing to use our physical blessings to help one another so that God's people have what they need even in the physical provisions that God provides.

I ran across this story which I found interesting and perhaps you will as well. Two old friends had spent three days together visiting in the home of one, who was named John.
(little Johnny grown up you see) "You have a pretty place here, John," remarked the guest on the morning of his departure. "But it looks a bit bare yet."
"Oh, that's because the trees are so young," answered the host comfortably. "I hope they'll have grown to a good size before you come again."

In verse 13 Paul goes on and mentions something that fits well with the season which we are in. Probably many of us have had this word cross our minds lately. It is something very important to the Christian and also something that we tend to misunderstand.
Paul concludes verse 13 by saying “be given to hospitality”. He says practice hospitality. At first glance I believe I know what hospitality is, but then in going through this in my mind, imagining what I am to do, I began to wonder. How do I practice hospitality and how much of an impact does it make in the life of the Christian by doing what Paul commands here? How can we know whether or not we are hospitable people?

Simple language yet what is the aspect of practicing hospitality in terms of how it's described in the Bible? How does this work as a lifestyle? You see in the context it is a part of the renewing of the spiritual mind of the Christian.

Hospitality does not come naturally, or at least biblical hospitality does not come naturally. It is part of what comes with a person's willingness to change their mind about how they’re going to live and be a living sacrifice.

I. What hospitality is: The dictionary defines hospitality as “The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” In view of this definition we often speak of hospitality as having friends and relatives over for dinner, sharing a meal and maybe watching the ballgame together, having a good time. That's being hospitable when you open your home and have people in.
A. That's not all that's intended in the biblical use of this word. It doesn't mean having those folks over that you know, that you love and that are part of your family. The original word that is translated as “hospitality” (φιλονεξία, philonexía, fil-on-ex-ee'-ah) comes from two words in the original language, philos – love and xenos – a stranger, which put together means “love to strangers”. It means to care for and show concern for those who you do not know.
1. It is actually then provision for those other than your family or your friends, but for those that are in essence on the outside. It means to treat those that are outside of your family as though they are in your family, and that's what hospitality is about.
2. Someone said that hospitality means not only to love strangers but it means to open the blessings of your home to those who are not naturally entitled. Those who are entitled to the blessings of your home are your children your grandchildren your aunts and your uncles and so on, those that are part of your family, they are welcomed into your home on every occasion and they are entitled to those blessings.
3. But there are a whole host of folks out there that are not necessarily entitled to come in and share the blessings of your home. The hospitable person is the person that opens the door to their home and allows someone to come in and share in those blessings. Paul says we need to practice hospitality.
B. I notice as well that if we put the commands in verse 13 together there is sort of a comprehensive approach. He says that we are to share with those that are our spiritual brothers and sisters by contributing to the needs of the Saints. Connected with that he says we must practice hospitality, love to strangers. We must look beyond our spiritual family to those that are on the outside and we must welcome them in cordiality, share our friendship even physical sacrifice.
1. This particular admonition is pointing us beyond just to those that we know and those that we are connected with. It extends to those who are by this very definition strangers to us. The Christian has to be open to considering the needs of those who are strangers.
2. We must recognize that true hospitality in the biblical sense is not just entertaining friends. If you watch the home renovation channels like HGTV you may hear people talk about making the kitchen over and saying things such as; “I like the kitchen the way we've done it, we're so into open space because we like to entertain.
i. What do they mean when they say “we like to entertain”?
ii. Probably they mean that they are going to have friends or relatives over and everybody is going to sit around eat chips and watch the game and have friendly conversation. That's a wonderful thing. I think Christians ought to be cordial and strive to be that way around people that they like. We need to foster those relationships.
3. But hospitality in the biblical sense is more than just having folks over that we know. It’s more than just entertaining.
4. It has been said; when you entertain you bring glory to yourself, however when you extend hospitality, you bring glory to God. That is a good way to look at the distinction. As Barclay puts it; “Christianity is the religion of the open hand, the open heart, and the open door.”
C. Many people entertain. The reasons they entertain certainly vary. They may entertain because they're showing off their newest recipe, because they've redone their house and they want everybody to see. Perhaps because there's something they want to share with others like a program so they sit around and watch TV or maybe play a game. When I was young our neighbor entertained us by having us over to watch the TV they had.
1. All of these things that we do where we entertain those that we like, are primarily focused on us and brings glory and honor to ourselves.
2. That's not what biblical hospitality is all about. It's not to bring honor to ourselves; it’s to bring honor to God. True hospitality goes beyond our love of the companionship of good friends.
D. Hospitality does not have its own reward in the manner that entertaining does. Hospitality is our duty before God and true hospitality in many regards may be risky, and it may be expensive. It may take us beyond what we want to do or what we like to do, to do that which is difficult for us.
1. It may cause us to look rather ridiculous or foolish in the eyes of others. You mean you're letting those folks into your home? You're going to do that for them, you're going to extend yourself? You don't have to do that.
2. I'm reminded of Jesus’ story in Luke Chapter 10. It’s what we sometimes refer to as the parable of the Good Samaritan. This Samaritan found a fellow who had been beaten and left for dead. The Samaritan bandaged his wounds and took care of him. He put this victim on his own animal and took him to an inn where he paid the innkeeper to care for the victim. He told the innkeeper; “if there's anything he needs give it to him and when I come back I'll pick up the bill”.
3. That was hospitality. Notice that it was not easy to do. It was risky. He very well could have been robbed himself. This could have been a trick waiting to deceive someone. He put himself in danger to help this other person. It was not done out of the desire for something in return. It wasn't because he expected something back.
4. He simply recognized there was a need by someone that he did not even know and that need should be met. The Samaritan determined to meet the need. It is the very definition of biblical hospitality.
E. That lesson of the Good Samaritan has been an inspiration though the ages. There are even hospitals named Good Samaritan. I'm glad they exist but the story of the Good Samaritan is not designed to encourage institutional or even congregational care for all the poor. It's telling us as individuals, about what we are to do to help someone who has a need.
1. It's about what we have to do to help those who may need help. Hospitality is a moral duty that has its reward in pleasing God. True hospitality does not seek reciprocation. It is not for us to be motivated to be hospitable because someone will give something back to us.
2. Jesus pointed this out in Luke 14:12-14 – “Then He also said to him who invited Him, "When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor your rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. 13. "But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. 14. "And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.''” Interestingly Jesus says this to the one who just invited Him into his home; “don't invite people like your friends or your relatives, not your rich neighbors, not anybody that can give back to you. Invite those that are on the outside, those that need”. Simply do something to please God without seeking any reciprocation.
3. Why did Jesus make that statement? Certainly not to describe any parameters of etiquette. He wasn't simply dealing with the aspect of who should be on your invitation list. He is talking about biblical love, isn’t He? He was talking about moving this aspect of doing good, beyond the borders of how it affects us or does good for us. He wants individuals to learn the concept of love, the true aspect of love. Love is something that is done towards God without seeking reciprocation because that's exactly how God loves us. It is true love exemplified in how we treat other people.
II. The common duty of God’s people: We recognize hospitality is the common duty of God's people. In Job’s defense of his own righteousness when he was suffering without knowing why. He declared; “But no sojourner had to lodge in the street, for I have opened my doors to the traveler” (Job 31:32) Job was saying I've taken people into my home so they didn't have to live on the street. Job was describing to God what was the common moral duty of His people. That it was the right thing to do. God had always expected His people to welcome others into their home and to fail to do that was sin. Job is saying I'm not guilty of the sin of leaving the stranger out on the street.
A. Hospitality has always been the way of God and the way of God's people. The classic example of this practice was found in the life of Abraham, God's true representative of faith and of living by faith. Read with me in Genesis18:2-8 – “2. So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground, 3. and said, "My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant. 4. "Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. 5. "And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by, inasmuch as you have come to your servant.'' And they said, "Do as you have said.'' 6. So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, "Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes.'' 7. And Abraham ran to the herd, took a tender and good calf, gave it to a young man, and he hastened to prepare it. 8. So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate.”
1. Notice how Abraham reacts to the appearance of these three strangers by his door. He says “stay awhile and have something to eat”. We'll make it right now and he runs to Sarah and says we've got guests. Ladies has your husband ever done that to you? We've got folks coming over for dinner, hurry and get it ready.
2. Abraham got a calf from the herd, not just any calf but a good calf and Sarah made cakes. Abraham fed them. It was common for sojourners to be extended hospitality. I'm convinced that both Sarah and Abraham were not just being socially hospitable they were being godly.
3. They were extending hospitality because they knew that the graciousness of their God needed to be reflected in their own lives. God is a gracious God and they were servants of God and therefore they would extend hospitality in the way God wanted them to, even to those that they did not know.
4. An interesting part of this particular story is that there was a surprise for Abraham and Sarah. These strangers brought the word of God into the home of Abraham in the form of the promise of a son. “I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.” (Verse 10). And Sarah laughed at that prospect.
5. Abraham no doubt was astonished but it happened just as the stranger said. Sometimes there's a blessing, an unforeseen blessing in the extension of hospitality.
B. Consider centuries later when the writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 13:2 – “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” [para] Clearly a reference back to Abraham in Genesis 18. The writer points to the spiritual value of hospitality that might not be seen except in hindsight.
1. It is also possible we might look back and say what if I hadn't done that? What if I hadn't invited that person, what if we never became friends? What if I never shared with them my home or shared with them a meal? What if that relationship and not been extended?
2. We recognize as well that hospitality was a part of the Law of Moses. I find this very profound from the standpoint that the law of Moses was even by the Bible's description a discriminating law where the Jew and the Gentile were separated. There was the clean and the unclean and there were even regulations against certain social participation in the life of those who were on the outside.
3. Yet, God had always said that his people would extend hospitality to those who were strangers. Leviticus 19:33-34 – “33 When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. 34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” [para] That is pretty clear text and it was part of the law.
C. I notice from this text that there is to be a motivation for the Jew to extend hospitality to the stranger in his land. God tells the Israelites to do this because you yourselves have been strangers in the land of Egypt.
1. Certainly a person that's been a stranger could sympathize with what it meant to be a stranger and to be unknown, to not have friends or a place to stay.
2. The Israelites at least from their past could relate to that, but there is more.
3. I also note that after He tells them why they should do this He says; I am the LORD your God. This phrase is used over and over again in the Law of Moses. These are the words that began the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-2 and any good Israelite could finish the sentence. “1. And God spoke all these words, saying: 2. "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” This clearly brought to the mind of the Israelites the fact that they hadn’t always been in the presence of God. They hadn’t always been protected and cared for by God, they had been brought up out of the land of Egypt as a stranger out of the house of bondage. These words appear many times in Leviticus Chapter 19 as God encourages His people to do what is right.
D. That's an important perspective for us to consider as we investigate our responsibilities to be hospitable in our own culture and our own age.
1. We have to always be aware where we came from, that before we were strangers ourselves. Maybe not physically enslaved in some land, maybe we've always been socially free, but we have not always been spiritually free.
2. Paul uses this very same terminology in Ephesians 2:12 when he says “That at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers”. Then he says in Ephesians 2:19 – “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,”.
3. Paul says before you weren’t in the family of God, you were strangers and Sojourners. God was hospitable to you. He allowed you to come in and share the blessings of His house when you were not entitled to those blessings, yet as a stranger in a foreign land He invited you in.
4. Paul wants us to see where we came from so we can better prepare ourselves to treat others in the way that God would have us treat them. It doesn't surprise us then that hospitality is commanded as well in the New Testament.
E. This responsibility is re-emphasized in the chapter of Romans we are studying. In the Greek the word we translate as “given” is actually an action word, διώκω diṓkō, dee-o'-ko, meaning to “run after”, “pursue”, “press toward a goal”.
1. The verb pursue here implies continuous action and might be used as denoting the activity of a hunter as he stalks His prey. It means to pursue something, not just sit around and wait for it to come in an ambush.
2. Paul is saying here, the Christian must pursue opportunities to be hospitable to others. He is to become an individual that looks for and notices opportunities to respond to the needs of others.
F. Paul uses this same language in 1 Timothy 3:2 when he describes the necessary character of one who would be an elder in the Lord’s Church – “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach;” [KJV] Given to hospitality doesn't mean they just practice it once in a while. It means they pursue opportunities on a continual basis to be a hospitable person. That is a qualification to lead God's people. Pretty challenging, isn't it?
1. If a person is not willing to open their home to others, to strangers, to people that they do not know, they have no right to lead the people that they do know.
2. Because it's such an integral characteristic of God himself, hospitality is not just something you do on the holidays but it is a lifestyle that we learn.
G. That flows as well from what Hebrew Chapter 13 verse 2 says; “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers:” He implies it is something that can be neglected. There are things that can get in the way.
1. Maybe you have good intentions when you have somebody over and you think; “boy that was really nice”. Then; “Look at all these dishes,” “Look at this place,” “I don't know if I’m going to do this again,” “You know what the kids did?” “Look at the other room.” It's easy for things to get in the way of pursuing hospitality. Paul says do not neglect it.
2. Paul is telling us that our houses or our apartments should stand constantly ready for the activities of hospitality, a readiness to welcome people in, that don't ordinarily live there, to share in the blessings of our home.
H. I find another occurrence of the aspect of hospitality from Peter in First Peter 4:8-9 he says; “8. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins.'' 9. Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” Some translations say without complaint. Oops. Remember those comments I just used as examples of things that can get in the way? Could those be what Peter means here? Peter with those words “without grumbling” adds a whole new dimension to the command.
1. There are times in which a person might be willing to force themselves to invite folks over or to share their home. Then when it's all over and done they grumble and complain about it.
2. Their attitude about it is “well I don't know if I'm going to do that again”. “I don't know if that was such a good idea.” or “I’m a very good person for what I just did”. Unfortunately that attitude absolutely disqualifies the moral value of the gift of hospitality when it's done with complaining or pride.
3. Peter makes me realize, if I had not already, that this command cannot be met simply by filling a quota of guests, of having a list of people to have over. The truly hospitable person is the person that, in their heart, is able to overlook the work and the difficulty and focus on the spiritual benefit to be gained.
4. It's the hospitality and the act of hospitality that makes it valuable to God. It is not just entertaining. It is more than that. In the next verses Peter reminds us we are but a steward of everything that God has given us and we are to seek to use what we have to bring glory to God.
I. Sometimes when we provide hospitality it may open other doors for us. We may gain a friend. We may find an opportunity to discuss the gospel with one who does not know it. How could we ever estimate the number and the depth of meaningful spiritual relationships that may come into our life if we simply were generous people, who give of what we have to those we do not know? It provides an enormous opportunity for God to bless us in ways that we do not imagine.
III. Strategic Hospitality: The ultimate act of hospitality was when Jesus Christ died for sinners to make everyone who obeys the gospel a member of the household of God. God is the first and foremost hospitable one. We are no longer strangers and sojourners because when we trust in God he finds us a home with him and He in essence takes us in.
A. Why did God do that? The answer may be found to some extent in Ephesians 1:5-6 – “... predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6. to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.” The writer says He has destined us in love to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will to the praise of His glorious Grace.
1. Why did God save me? It wasn't just for my benefit, or even just because I needed it. Paul says here it was to the praise of His Grace that He saved us.
2. He rescued unworthy strangers in Egypt. Why? For His own Glory, not just for them, but so that people could look and say what a great God He is who rescues those who cannot rescue themselves, who is hospitable to those who are strangers and sojourners. He does it to the praise of His glorious grace.
B. It seems clear to me then, that true hospitality on the very basic level that I exercise in my own life has the ability to honor God and His grace. I’ve been looking for a reason why I ought to do this. To recognize that it’s through this avenue that other individuals can see not me, not my house, not my things, but they can see the grace of God in my life.
1. Hospitality becomes the conduit through which we see the liberating message of the grace of God made known to others. We invite them in our home. I show them how we live, what priorities are in our life, and we speak to them about God.
2. Is there any better platform or environment in which to speak to individuals that are strangers to us, about the grace of God, than in our own home? It's there that God provides an opportunity, in that sense hospitality becomes strategic hospitality.
C. Let me suggest you that strategic hospitality asks a few questions. It asks how we can draw the most people to God through the use of our home, our blessings? I’m going to use my home that God has given to me in a way that glorifies God.
1. How can we use our house to draw people to God? Who is it around us that might need the reinforcements? Who is it around us that might need reinforcement against loneliness? Perhaps there are people who need to be encouraged and strengthened that could find it simply by sharing a meal with me.
2. Who are the people that need to know each other that don't know each other very well? Maybe they could come together around our table eating our food and get to know each other in a way that they could bless each other. Those are legitimate ways in which God lays before us the use of the things that we have, every day, to do God's work and it's called hospitality.

It's an enormous challenge that lies before us. I hope that we will take the opportunity to do that in the ways that God has provided for us.

One last thought. We mentioned before that hospitality is rather risky, it's an endeavor that can be costly. I would suggest to you that the stakes of not being hospitable people are even higher.

Matthew chapter 25 Jesus described the judgment scene, and on one side of that judgment scene, those on his left hand were those who would depart from Him forever.
He says to them in verse 41; “41. "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42. 'for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43. 'I was a stranger and (notice...) you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.' 44. "Then they also will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?' 45. "Then He will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'”

Hospitality is enclosed in the very words of the judgment of Jesus Christ. How could it be any more compelling to us then for it to be right there and to know that God expects us to learn to share the things that we have to such an extent, that he will bring it into balance in the very judgment of our soul?

Are we a hospitable people? I've got to learn to trust God in this risky business. Open my home I can be taken advantage of, people can do bad things to me. I might be hurt in some way. That's true.

Where do I find the courage to do it? It's not just in the command. It's in the trust of God behind the command. God will not allow me to be ashamed of what I do. He will protect me and care for me in the extension of hospitality. He's inviting you into His house because He is a hospitable God.

We need to be the kind of hospitable people that God wants us to be, to extend love others.
If you're not in the household of God, He invites you in through the exercise of faith.
You open the door to God so He can come in and have a relationship with you. It’s a relationship that has all the blessings that God can engender, that faith is exercised through repentance of sins and baptism for the forgiveness of sins and the confession of Jesus Christ as your savior before man.

If you will do those things it’s an exercise of your faith. God will welcome you while we stand and sing.


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