1 Peter 4:8-9 “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’ Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.”
The early church had the love and togetherness of a stable family. In Acts 2, we read that the brethren willingly shared their possessions with those in need and ate food together with gladness and simplicity of heart. Nowhere did God command the church to provide a meal for brethren to use for fellowship. In fact, Paul rebukes the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 11:22 by saying, “What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?” We do not read of New Testament churches building “fellowship halls” but instead shared social fellowship on an individual basis.
The New Testament writers urged brethren to show hospitality towards one another. The word “hospitality” literally means a “love of strangers.” In the Old Testament there were laws regulating the treatment of strangers. For example, Deuteronomy 10:18-19 commands: “He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Before the Law, Abraham and Lot fed and sheltered strangers (Genesis 18, 19). These men entertained angels unknowingly, Hebrews 13:2. From the beginning, hospitality has been a virtue desired by God.
The New Testament urges us to be “given to hospitality,” Romans 12:13. The word translated “given” literally means to pursue. We must pursue opportunities to show hospitality. We must also recognize that many of our brethren, whom we see week after week, are still in many ways strangers to us. We may not know where they live, what their hobbies are, their likes and dislikes. When we enter their homes and they enter ours, they see what is important to us by our collections, our pictures, and our possessions. Sometimes I have learned that a brother and I have similar interests and hobbies when visiting with them. When we open our houses and our lives to our brethren, we will develop deeper friendships and brotherly love.
When we share together, we learn some needs that our brethren have. Going “house to house” is one of the best ways to develop a close relationship with his brethren.
Hospitality should extend beyond a close circle of friends. It is easy to have people into our homes on a regular basis whose company we already enjoy, and this should not neglected. However, the transformed life extends hospitality beyond those friends. Consider Jesus’ admonition in Luke 14:12-14 to not invite those who can repay us back with a meal but invite those who most need it. Their primary need might not be food but companionship. Consider also this sober lesson from our Lord:
Matthew 5:46-47: “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?”
Christians must be willing to receive hospitality. When a brother invites us into his home, we should be thankful and, if possible, accept that invitation. Some people have a hard time accepting hospitality but we help other Christians fulfill their duty by allowing them to show their love towards us. Just as we should graciously accept when they want to wash our clothes, mow our lawn, bring us food and other types of service when we are sick or otherwise in need, we must willingly receive hospitality. Some have such pride that would refuse the offers of kind brethren. We need to humble ourselves and allow them to fulfill their duty. We will have a chance to repay hospitality and service shown to us by serving others.