Hospitality doesn’t come naturally to me. In fact, I have spent the better part of my adult life trying to love it. But while I don’t love it, I know it is biblical, and good for me to practice. For a long time, my struggle with hospitality was owing to my own false ideas about it. I thought the meal needed to be fancier. I thought the table settings needed to be prettier (or not plastic). I thought a lot of things, and none of them could be found in the Bible.
But there is another person in my family who practices hospitality with ease—my husband. He is servant-hearted, often seeing an empty glass before I do. He remembers the things and people like I don’t like. He often initiates the invite on behalf of our family. For us, inviting people into our home is a joint effort, one we do better together.
This is fitting, considering one of the qualifications for being an elder in a church is that he be hospitable (Titus 1:8, 1 Tim. 3:1-7). And since Daniel has served as an elder for most of our marriage, he takes this command seriously.
Often we silo the topic of hospitality. We see passages like Titus 2:3-5, where Paul urges Titus to have older women train the women in managing their own households, and we assume that the work of the home is singularly a female one. But it is not. Men are equally commanded in scripture to be hospitable (Rom. 12:13, Heb. 13:2, 1 Pet. 4:9), manage their households (1 Tim. 3:4), and care for their children (Eph. 6:4). But when was the last time a men’s event was on the topic of hospitality? Would men even come?
I think our efforts at hospitality would be far more successful if we made it a human issue, rather than a female one—because we really are better together.
Hospitality and the Heart of God
This idea of hospitality together is not owing to our modern sensibilities, where we are accustomed to men and women working alongside each other. While we tend to silo out male and female responsibilities in the home and the church, and even in the marketplace sometimes, God does that far less with hospitality. There is a pattern of male leadership in the home and in the church, but from the very beginning God has been concerned with his image bearers imaging him together.
In the very beginning, God welcomed Adam and Eve into the world that he made. He created a home for them (Gen. 2:15). He made it hospitable. And then he let them live in it under his rule and reign. Even when sin entered the world, a life of welcome was always his intent. When Israel received the Law from Moses, welcoming the alien and stranger was included in his plan for his people, continuing this theme of hospitality that he established in the beginning (Lev. 19:34, Deut. 10:19, Ps. 146:9.)
In fact, one of the reasons hospitality is a qualification for an elder is because hospitality is tied closely to the heart of God. So it makes sense that a man who is called to shepherd God’s sheep would do it in a way that mirrors how he shepherds his sheep.
Hospitality and the Christian
But since hospitality is so tied to God’s nature, it can’t just be an issue for the elders in our churches either. It is for all of us. The New Testament model of a Christian is one who is hospitable. Many of the Epistles include references to hospitality. As God’s people grew, they were to be a welcoming people, not only welcoming strangers, but also welcoming Gentiles into the faith (Acts 15:13-14).
In the Old Testament, when God’s people welcomed strangers into their midst, it was to show them what God was like. He is a God who cares for the alien and stranger. The same is true for us as new covenant Christians. Just think for a moment what would happen if you invited your unsaved neighbor into your home for a meal, or allowed your rebellious college student to come home for the weekend, or hosted an immigrant family for a holiday? What would this say about the God you serve? It would say the very thing Jesus says in Matthew:
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’ (Matthew 25:35-40).
The Christian images God in many ways, but one of the ways all of us can show the world what he is like is through our practice of hospitality. When we welcome those who bear the image of God, we are serving God. Our work of hospitality is an act of worship back to him, the God who rules over all things.
We often leave the hospitality discussion up to the women, but the consistent pattern of scripture is that hospitality is for all of us—men, women, children, and leaders. We serve a God who welcomes with abandon, and as his image bearers, we should too. The task before us is too large, and too important, to be left to half the church.
Editor's Note: This post originally appeared at the blog for Credo Magazine and is used with permission.