Use Hospitality

October 19, 2008 / No. 3433

Dear radio friends,

In our program last week we considered God’s Word concerning the single life. Singleness is a magnificent calling in Jesus Christ to show the sufficiency and adequacy of Christ Jesus. Single life is to be a picture of faithfulness to Jesus Christ. It illustrates that faithfulness to Jesus Christ is life, that devotion to and service of Christ and walking with Christ is life.

Today we want, so to speak, to bridge the gap between the married and the unmarried in the covenant of God. The covenant of God is that wonderful, gracious, everlasting bond of love and fellowship into which the believer is taken in Christ Jesus. In that bond we have fellowship with each other, old and young, male and female, single and married. And we bridge the gap in the covenant of God between those married and unmarried, between the single and the married, between old and young, by the call to hospitality. Jesus said, “And whosoever shall give to drink a cup of cold water to one of these little ones only in the name of the disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.” Jesus there is not speaking of showing love to an enemy of the gospel. But He says there that we must show simple kindness and love to another because he is a disciple. “Whosoever shall give to drink a cup of cold water…only in the name of the disciple,” because he is a disciple. In other words, Jesus is saying, look into the eyes of that single person, that married person, that person whose name you do not know, that person who seems awkward, and see the face of a brother or sister in the covenant of God. And in that covenant of God, show hospitality.

Hospitality is the relationship in Christ’s blood that draws out our heart toward each other in practical kindness for Jesus’ sake. Jesus says, “I will be honored if you give him a drink for that reason, if you have him or her over to your house, if you share a meal, if you show kindness—I will be honored if you do that for My sake.” The covenant of God, the gracious bond of fellowship with God and with each other, is magnified before the world in our fellowship, in how we treat each other in that covenant. And specifically, it is magnified in hospitality.

The apostle Peter speaks of this in I Peter 4:8ff. We read, “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” There the Scripture says: Use (or employ, put to work) hospitality one to another without grudging.

Hospitality? Hospitality is simply to make room for others, to open up our time, our week, our homes for the good of each other in the body of Jesus Christ, to be considerate in the church. It is to clear space at the table, in your schedule. It is to want other members of the church to be blessed by you. Hospitality is to remove the strangeness, the awkwardness, to overcome the barrier of not knowing that person or making the acquaintance of that stranger. It is to invite the single person over to your house. It is to have the married couple to your apartment as a single person. It is to make a meal and to send a card or a thank you to your fellow church member. It is to say, “Hi,” and give your name to someone who is visiting at your church. It is, for a young person, to pick up after yourself, in order to help your mother. The Bible is full of this.

Jesus said in Luke 14:12-14, “When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” The Lord says, “Show kindness not simply to your regular friends and family. Use hospitality in the name of Christ. Be motivated, not by a desire for repayment, but by the free grace that God has given to you.”

The apostle Paul said in Romans 12:13 that the life of one who would be transformed by the power of the world and, therefore, not conformed to the world, would be a life that distributes “to the necessity of saints; [that you will be] given to hospitality.”

The apostle John says in III John:5, 6, “Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to stranger; which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey…thou shalt do well.” The Scriptures are plain: Use hospitality. Make work of fellowship. Get to know one another in the church of Jesus Christ. Send a card. Send a thank-you. Show forth concern one for another.

You say, “Pastor, now is this so important? Yes,” you say, “it would be nice if we were a bit more considerate. But human nature being what it is….”

Well, beloved, our Lord saw the evidence of His grace in us in those very deeds, in what we would call those unnoticed little deeds. The Lord saw His grace in how we would treat and speak of each other. In the way that we treat each other, and in the way that we speak of each other, we give evidence whether we know the grace of God or whether we do not.

Think of the passage in Matthew 25, where the Lord says at the end of the world, “Come, ye blessed, and inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” And then remember that the Lord identifies His grace at work in His children in terms of hospitality. He says concerning His true children: “For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat. I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink. I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; sick, and ye visited me. I was in prison, and ye came to me. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of these, the least of my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Jesus is saying that the one way that you can measure growth in grace is in terms of hospitality, in terms of your conduct to other believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. You see your union to God and your understanding of His grace to you in those small things. “He that is faithful,” says Jesus in Luke 16:10, “in that which is least, is faithful also in much. And he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.”

You know how we will come experientially to enjoy the blessings of Jesus Christ? By making an effort to show hospitality. By breaking through the clicks. By being friendly and kind. You know how you, as a busy wife, will experience blessing in anxiety? By making room in your day—for little acts. Little acts form a practice. A practice becomes a habit. And habit forms character. And character reflects God’s glory.

Be hospitable. Be considerate in your driving, in your talking, that you do not always have to top the other person. Leave room for the mistakes of others. Make room one for another.

I read from I Peter 4, where we have the calling to use hospitality, to employ hospitality one with another, without grudging. The context shows how urgent this is. From the context, hospitality among the saints is urgent and crucial because of the last days. When you consider, says Peter, the stress that the last days will have upon the church, then it is of utmost importance to use hospitality.

In verse 7 of that chapter the apostle says, “But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.” Peter brings urgency. The day of consummation, the day of the Lord’s return, is at hand. It is the next thing. The world is about to be swept away in God’s judgment. Therefore you need, says Peter, to be sober, self-controlled, diligent. And you need to be alert in prayer. For it is through prayer that you shall stay close to Him whom you will see when He returns, seeing Him face to face. You do not want to meet Him then as a stranger. You do not want to meet Him on that day off guard. You will stand up in those last days, says the apostle Peter, only by living a sober and prayerful Christian life.

And then Peter says that in the last days the love among the saints will be crucial. “And above all things…have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” We must love one another in the church of Jesus Christ as fellow believers. The pressures at the end of the world will have huge Satanic effect to divide the church of God and thus to conquer. Fervent love is crucial under the stress of the last days, of the days of persecution when many will be leaving the church, when many whose love, said Jesus, will grow cold and who will say concerning the church: “I’m out of here.” A love is necessary, a love fueled by prayer. And then, says Peter, hospitality is one way to show that love in the last days.

How will we stand under the pressures of the last days as Christians when we are called to suffer for Jesus’ sake? Perhaps many Christians will be rejected of their own families and be denied a place in the world. How shall we stand if we do not practice hospitality one to another?

Rahab hid the spies in their moment of need. Christians in China are hiding North Korean Christians who have lost all for their confession of Jesus Christ. In World War II, Christians in Europe took into their homes brothers and sisters who were being hunted and persecuted and hid and fed them and clothed them. The grace of hospitality is God’s means of providing for His children in their loneliness and in their sufferings for Jesus’ sake. You can understand why Peter adds the words, “Use hospitality one to another without grudging,” for we would be tempted to grumble in the days of persecution, in the days of shortages. We would say, “Honey, we don’t have enough for ourselves.” Or, “If people see that we welcome them into our house, certainly we are going to suffer and we are going to get the stares.”

But also for us right now, we are tempted sometimes to grumble. The apostle Peter says, “Love covers the multitude of sins…show hospitality without grumbling.” Hospitality should not grumble if we have covered a multitude of sins and weaknesses. Love covers the stuff about which we are prone to grumble. “I don’t want him over. He’s a stranger, for he’s strange. I don’t like him. He eats too much. They are odd. He has a funny nose and irksome laugh. He chews with his mouth open.” Beloved, I thought love covered the multitude of imperfections. Use hospitality without grumbling.

Peter says that in these last days, in the “me-generation,” when everyone is self-absorbed, when everyone is saying, “Get out of my way,” in the last days when Christians are wounded and isolated and jeered and despised, open your home, your time, one to another. Make room one for another, as the household of faith.

There is an encouragement here. The apostle says in the following verse that everyone of us has received the gift. The gift that he says that we have received is the gift of God’s grace. We are all, then, stewards, as Christians, of the grace of God. We are custodians. We are wardens of God’s grace. And Peter is referring there to the grace that gives us different abilities and different talents. As stewards of God’s grace, we must be careful to use our gifts, our talents, our time in the way that God would have us use them.

Now, we do not all have the same gifts. The apostle is emphasizing that. There are different gifts. In the church you do not have to be like everyone else. We do not all have the same abilities. We cannot all handle every situation. We do have our limits. But the point of the apostle is: use your gifts.

Hospitality does have its limits among the saints. The great Reformer Martin Luther said, “If my guest stays over­night, in the morning I hand him a shovel.” Hospitality does not mean that you accept every behavior. It does not mean that you receive gossip. It does not mean that you entertain prying questions. But employ hospital­ity. Employ hospitality as you have received the gift. Welcome other Christians into your home. Get to know the widows. Greet and show interest in those who are visiting your services. Visit the sick, the aged, and the lonely. Open up time one for another.

The real heroes of faith are the hospitable people, the ap­proachable saint. Do this, says God, because of the covenant. Within the sacred Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, there is a constant movement one toward the other. Each one cherishes the other. Each one holds another in the bosom, in the heart. A God of covenant is a God of grace who makes room for us outcasts, orphans, sinners, alien, filthy sinners. We have been brought nigh unto God. By grace alone, through His blood, we have been received into His house, crowned with His love. This is all of God.

Now show this one to an­other. The blessing is given by God. It is the knowledge that, as God has done for me, so I desire to do to my fellow believers. The blessing will be the glory of God. The apostle Peter says in verse 11, “That God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever.” A witness of God is left in our fellowships. In hos­pitality a witness is left of God and of His Christ.

That witness will be like this: The world will behold, and they will say that the church is not like them. They will be forced to confess that almighty grace is at work among the saints. Christ is among them. They show hospitality to each other.

Let us pray.

Father, we thank Thee for the Word. We pray that the Word may be the power to gov­ern our daily walk of life and that thankfulness for Thy grace may be the motive behind everything we do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.