Sunday I finished a sermon series on 1 Peter. This Sunday was the culmination sermon where Peter summarizes much of what he has said. The book is written with persecution looming just over the horizon for the churches in Asia Minor. This passage focuses on the examination to come for all at the end of all things, and how in light of this, our call is to live for God today. Peter outlines 4 lifestyles we are to live out, Prayer, Love, Hospitality, and the use of our Gifts.
It was one of those sermons that really preached to me. Especially my investigation into what hospitality really is. Here is an excerpt from my sermon on hospitality:
“The third lifestyle we are to live in light of eternity is to practice hospitality, and to do so ungrudgingly and without complaining.
The word hospitality literally means, “love of strangers.” This hospitality echoes the teaching of Jesus, who spoke of the necessity of giving and receiving hospitality. He sent the disciples out with nothing, ordering them to rely on the hospitality and generosity of others.
Even before Jesus, in the Old Testament, Numbers says, “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”
In other words, “Israel, as you travel around, as you are in the desert and then as you settle in the land, if strangers come among you, treat them as you would other members of your tribe and family. Welcome them in and meet their needs because remember, once you were aliens in Egypt and were not treated so well.” (personal paraphrase)
Take a minute and think about how radical this teaching was in its time and in our own as well. This remarkable expectation of the people of God which is expected of us as well.
In most all cultures, one would expect the recollection of one’s own 400 year enslavement and the recollection of one’s own painful past to motivate getting revenge, getting even, or passing on unwittingly to the next generation one’s own history of abuse, manipulaton, and neglect. Isn’t this the way in works in society, marriages, and families?
Not among God’s people. The memory of their own experience was to generate empathy essential to genuine hospitality. Our own sufferings, our own slights, motivate not revenge, but the empathy and compassion necessary to make sure others don’t feel and suffer as we did.
So hospitality is not just having friends over for dinner. It is the welcoming of strangers. It is the meeting of needs of those in need. It informs how we greet those who visit us on Sunday mornings as well as how we view and minister to the homeless and those living in poverty, and victims of abuse. It seeks that no one be left out, left behind, or standing alone in the corner.
The call to hospitality is as much a lifestyle as is prayer and love. Hospitality is an outflow of this constant, deep, and mutual love we have for one another and our God and that God has for us. Hospitality is grounded in love, love is grounded in prayer, prayer is grounded in God.
So church, in light of eternity and the examination to come, practice hospitality now, and do so freely and joyously. Invite one another into your home. Welcome the strangers who cross paths with your life and even take the path of your live off-road to deliberately encounter the disenfranchised strangers in our world. Ensure that every stranger who walks in these doors walks out a friend and a part of the body.
In light of eternity, practice hospitality freely and gladly.”
I feel I have begun an adventure of figuring out what it means to live a truly hospitable life. It goes so much deeper than I ever suspected. It encompasses love, missional living, preaching, social justice and so much more. We have hosted friends in our home the past two nights, and I have experienced much of the joy that comes even with giving hospitality (and this at its easiest, lightest level). It is a miraculous thing for the preacher to be preached to through his own preaching. Often we who say the most hear the least.
These words have resounded in my life this week. Thanks be to God.