As we traveled across North America this past summer, what made it so special were the many wonderful people we met along the way. And the hospitality they showed us was beyond the imagination!
To open your home to an invasion like the Shannon family takes a special kind of person. It means decreased privacy, shuffling of space and the practical matter of feeding more mouths. But, people did it night after night.
I believe it stands out as being out of the ordinary to us because hospitality for many of us in the current day is a lost practice. The hospitality industry means that many of us turn first to a hotel room rather than opening our homes.
As those on the receiving end of hospitality again and again, it reminded us of the vital place of hospitality in New Testament times. Consider some ways the Bible spoke about the culture of hospitality that was expected in the 1st Century:
- Luke 9:3. “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: ‘Take nothing for the journey – no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town…’” The 12 were dependent on hospitality.
2. Luke 11:5 -6. In the midst of one of Jesus’ parables on prayer we see the vital nature of hospitality, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’” The expectation was that this man would have food to give proper hospitality to the friend on a journey. And if not, then his neighbor might come to his rescue to preserve his neighbor’s honor.
3. Luke 10:38. “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.”
4. Again and again we see it in the Early Church through Acts. In Acts 16 we read about Lydia, “When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home.” Or Acts 21:8, “Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven.” And in Acts 28 we see it in verse 2, “The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold,” as well as in verse 7, “There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius…He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days.”
5. And then we also find various instructions throughout the New Testament about how to practice hospitality. In 1 Timothy 5:10, a widow was expected to be well known for her good deeds, including hospitality. But, also in the list of Elder’s requirements in Titus 1:8 is the expectation that a potential Elder was hospitable. In Romans 12:13, we read, ‘Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” And a strong word in 1 Peter 4:9, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” And of course, there is 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.”
By the way, I’m not inferring that our crew is anywhere close to angels in that last verse. 🙂
While it is Biblical, it seems that the hard part of these verses is found in the practical.
Here are some marks of great hospitality that we experienced along the way. You might be surprised by what stood out to us.
Marks of Great Hospitality as we experienced it.
- Mi Casa, su Casa. Any time anyone said to us, “Make yourselves at home,” that was a breath of fresh air. It never had anything to do with the quality of the home or the bigness or smallness of that home. Rather, a simple invitation made a huge difference.
2. Simplicity. When hosts made simple food or even said, “Here it is, help yourself,” it made us breathe a breath of relief. Hospitality is not about breaking our necks or spending our lives in the kitchen to impress…rather a simplicity of sharing warms the heart.
3. Sharing Life. We loved how people weren’t just giving us housing and food like a boarder. Rather, we sat around and shared life. We listened to stories and told our own. We shared our joys and our concerns. We prayed together and shared together knowing that God was knitting our lives together in a special way.
4. Power of Prayer. We had a number of settings where hosts prayed deep prayers. They spoke out words of knowledge and prayers of encouragement over us. And we had the privilege of praying for some of them, too. That was a special gift…again and again.
5. The Art of Service. The way folks served us was remarkable. But what it spoke to us was the love of Jesus. They chose to serve because they follow the Master Servant. They saw their houses and food and pools and toys as gifts given by God. So, they freely shared with other believers. They served out of what The Lord had put in them and it was beautiful.
The practice of hospitality is still alive and well among Jesus followers. And we were the beneficiaries of gift after gift as a result. Thank you to you heroes of hospitality. We appreciate the ways you served our family so well…giving off the fragrance of Christ again and again.