It was the apostle Peter who said, “Use Hospitality one to another without grudging” (I Pet. 4:9). The Hebrew writer said, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb. 13:2). These passages enjoin upon all Christians a fundamental responsibility to be hospitable one to another. Hospitality must be extended to “strangers” and “one to another.”
The Bible warns against a misuse of hospitality among brethren in Christ. The Apostle Peter commands that we “use hospitality one to another without grudging.” Is our inviting people into our homes and showing hospitality toward them often entered into with the attitude “we owe them a meal,” or “it is our turn,” or “we will have to do it because no one else ever does?” If so, we have lost the spirit and meaning of true hospitality. If it is merely the payment of an obligation, if it is a thing done out of a grudging sense of duty, if the time, expense, and effort is complained about it is not true hospitality!
Hospitality that has as its motive some personal compensation or consideration is warned against. In Luke 14:12,13, Jesus said: “When you make a dinner or supper, call not your friends, nor your brethren, nor your kinsmen, nor rich neighbors; lest haply they also bid you again, and a recompense be made thee. But when you make a feast bid the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind; and thou shalt be blessed . . .” In keeping with the Jewish mode of speech, Jesus here stresses one form of action (feeding the poor) by contrasting with another (entertaining those who can repay us). So in Luke 14, to entertain friends and loved ones is not expressly prohibited but rather the emphasis is placed upon showing hospitality to those who need our association and help. In almost every congregation there are widows or widowers or handicapped people or others whose lives can be made brighter and whose burden can be made lighter by thoughtfulness and hospitality upon the part of faithful brethren.
The use of hospitality to encourage young people to develop friendships among Christians is another neglected field. The use of hospitality to make contacts and develop friendships among non-Christians is still another neglected area. We should understand that social activities can’t be used as a “drawing card” to win people to Christ. Christ is the only “drawing” power (Jno. 12:32) and the gospel the only power to save (Rom. 1: 16). However, to gain the confidence and friendship of people we work with, or neighbors, or others by social contact and sincere hospitality can give us many opportunities to discuss the Bible, or arrange home studies, or extend invitations to the assembly.
The Church’s Hospitality
How we treat strangers in our assembly and the impression we leave on them is very imperative ro remember (Jas. 2:1-5 ff; I Cor. 14: 23-25; III Jno. 5-8). If we understand the basic principles of hospitality in our homes involve making people feel welcomed, then why would we not show hospitality in our assembly? If people are not greeted as they enter, if they have to walk around groups of joking brethren to get a seat, if no song book or Bible is handed them, if they are interrupted by excessive noise and distracted by the irreverent actions of members, if none encourages them to come back, will they be impressed with the hospitality (“love of strangers”) manifested by Christians? Thoughtfulness and kindness extended to strangers in our midst can be an important factor in the impression left upon them as they come in contact with the Lord’s church for the first time. Brethren, let us truly “Use hospitality” to its full potential. “Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.’ (Rom 16:16)