September 29, 2015
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1-3, NAS)
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; (1 Peter 3:18-19, NAS)
Hebrews 12 talks about how we are to run our race and about how Jesus ran his. He endured the cross and its shame for the joy set before Him. What was that joy? It wasn’t sitting down at the right hand of the throne of God. The joy set before Jesus was us! He came for us. He died for us. He wants to spend eternity with us. Where does that leave us? Redeemed. This is the gospel and the gospel drives everything, even hospitality.
The biblical view of hospitality is housed in cultures very different from ours. Biblical hospitality has to do with inviting strangers in. Abraham invited strangers into his house (Genesis 18:1-15); the Shunammite woman invited the stranger Elisha into her home (2 Kings 4:8-10); Job entertained strangers (Job 31:32). In the New Testament, Jesus told his disciples to travel light, because they were to find hospitality along the way (Mark 6:8). The apostle Paul traveled all over Asia Minor and he planned his journeys knowing that people whom he did not know would invite him in for food and a place to sleep.
This is so different picture from our current idea of hospitality, where we feel compelled to create culinary art from whatever is in the pantry, and to be able to set a table that would be the pin-of-all-Pins. But the biblical definition of hospitality broadens things. We were once strangers to God, a people without a home, an unrighteous people, strangers to Him and His holiness. But while we were in this state, he died for us and brought us to God—He invited us in. Bringing strangers to God is gospel-driven hospitality that crosses time and culture, and there are many ways to do it.
Perhaps biblical hospitality can take the burden off those of us who get a sinking feeling when we hear the term “gospel hospitality”, and think that this is just one more area in our Christian lives where we fall short. Maybe we need a fresh way of looking at it—to be motivated by Jesus living in and through us, and not concerned about how clean our house is or what food we might serve on a moment’s notice—so that we can share the gospel and not be burdened by it; so that we can take the initiative and make the invites for the purpose of preparing others for eternity because that’s what Jesus did. He didn’t have a home and he used borrowed food to feed strangers. He made the time and took the opportunities to bring us to God. He knew hospitality isn’t so much about the food or the accommodations, though he is taking care of that, but it’s about bringing estranged humanity to Himself so that they can feast on Him and find a place to rest in Him, and call Him Blessed Host.