By Chris Martin
I am a pretty introverted person. After a long week of work, church commitments, and other social gatherings, I look forward to a day of rest each weekend with my family. Rest not from physical exertion, but from social exertion. I could go to the gym seven days a week and not grow as weary as I do from seven days straight of extensive social interaction with people outside my home. In spite of my introverted sensitivities, one of my favorite things to do is welcome people into our home for small group, game nights, or backyard hangouts. When I was in college I longed for the day when my then-girlfriend-and-eventual-wife Susie and I would have our own home into which we could welcome people. I’m not the most bubbly, gregarious host in the neighborhood, but I do enjoy practicing hospitality all the same.
The biblical understanding of hospitality is more than cooking good food and being a good host. Biblical hospitality is about cultivating a welcoming atmosphere, inviting and serving all who may come into our care. In Romans 15, Paul is getting toward the end of his letter to the Christians in Rome when he turns toward a series of commands that call followers of Jesus to a lifestyle of unconditional love and glorious hospitality for one another. He writes in Romans 15:5–7:
“Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, according to Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with one mind and one voice. Therefore welcome one another, just as Christ also welcomed you, to the glory of God.”
We are to welcome others, whether in our homes, churches, or elsewhere, as Christ has welcomed us into His presence and family. Why? So that God may be glorified. Christ, in sacrificing Himself on the cross so we can receive the grace of God and enjoy the relationship with Him we were meant to enjoy from the beginning, is the example of hospitality to which we must aspire even if we come up short in one way or another. At the heart of Christ’s hospitality for us is sacrifice, and so must sacrifice be at the heart of our hospitality for others.
As Christ gave His life to welcome us into relationship with Him, so we build our lives around the sacrificial hospitality that ushers others into a relationship with God.