The original meaning of the word hospitality is 'love of the stranger'. When the Bible encourages believers to practice hospitality, it's not talking about entertaining, dinner parties, or corporate-schmoozing. As we thought about together last Sunday, it's encouraging an open heart, and an open home.
“Above everything, love one another deeply, because love covers over many sins. Open your homes to each other without complaining.” 1 Peter 4:8-9 (GNB)
An open heart
Before we are told to open our homes to each other, we are encouraged to open our hearts to each other. In other words, hospitality is not a 'tick-box' to be completed in dutiful fulfilment of our Christian obligations. Rather, it is the practical outworking of something that is going on in our hearts: a deep love for each other. This kind of deep love doesn't come naturally. Rather, it's a supernatural fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22) that grows as we appreciate more the great love that God has for us (1 John 4:19).
An open home
A great way to demonstrate and to grow in our love for one another, is to open our homes to each other. In an individualistic culture, we can be very protective of our private space. Those with families often have schedules that feel so frenetic, that the idea of having others round can feel a bit exhausting. This may be because we have unhelpful ideas as to what 'hospitality' is. But what we're being encouraged to do is not put on a great show, but simply let people into our ordinary lives.
Who doesn't love beans on toast? Invite a family from church to eat beans on toast with you! Those with young kids spent half their lives at the park. Why not invite friends from church to tag along? With a Sunday afternoon service, why not get into the habit of getting together with someone from church for lunch?
An Englishman's house may be his castle (complete with raised drawbridge). But a Christian is encouraged to have a home open to their wider church family. A place of relationship, and refuge and real life shared with others.
That's why hospitality would be a great habit to foster this year... how could you make a start?