The Simplicity of Hospitality
Words by Rachel Schelb // Image by Marisa Albrecht
Hospitality is a multi-billion-dollar industry. Searches on this topic will generate more information on the hotel industry that anything else. Searching for “biblical hospitality” provides Bible verses and general information on what the Bible says about this topic. However, in almost all conversations in Christian contexts, one of two things is mentioned: recipes or evangelism. I feel like hospitality from a biblical view is confusing for many. Only four verses directly address hospitality. Because it is not widely discussed in Scripture, there is more room for loose interpretation. I believe that is why many people relate this topic to either fancy recipes and entertaining, or to inviting lost people over for the sole purpose of sharing the Romans Road with them. Somewhere through the decades we have lost sight of the simplicity of hospitality.
I would like to identify the bare bones structure of hospitality from a biblical perspective. To do that, we first have to look at what the Bible says in regards to this topic.
Romans 12:13: Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
1 Peter 4:9: Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:8: Hospitality is one of the qualifications for leaders in the church.
Before we go any further, look and identify which verse(s) refer to either cooking or evangelism. None of them do! I believe the reason we have lumped it all into the same category is because we do not quite know what to do with these verses. They are actually pretty vague. We know that in Greek, the word is some variation of philoxenos, which literally means “love to strangers.” Romans and 1 Peter give us the clear mandate: show hospitality. No qualifiers. No exceptions.
So far we have determined hospitality is a biblical mandate and a requirement for leaders in the church. We also know it means to show love to strangers. What in the world does this mean for the young mom, the empty nester, or the single twenty-something? Why should anyone worry all that much about just a couple of verses in the Bible? Let’s break it down into three things it means for us today:
1. It is a biblical mandate.
A mandate simply means an official order to behave in a particular manner. Since the Bible is God’s Word, we can know its words are true. Numbers 23:19, Titus 1:2, and Hebrews 6:18 all attest to the fact that God cannot lie. So we have a mandate, or order, from God to show love to strangers. The Bible does not say it is only for leaders of the church. Hospitality is not only for extroverts, financially stable, and/or mature believers. There are no qualifiers; if you have been forgiven and redeemed by Jesus Christ, you have been given your order. Show love to strangers—meaning anyone you don’t know.
2. It looks different for everyone.
Like I said, there are no qualifications necessary. You can be the worst cook on the planet or a world-renowned chef. You can be the next home decor guru or live in an igloo. Since there are no qualifiers, there is literally only one way to mess it up. The only way to mess hospitality up is to just not do it! What a relief.
If you’re a young professional, invite some co-workers out for dinner after work and form relationships outside of the workplace. Young moms, connect with your local church or get to know your neighbors and reach out to fellow young moms. Invite the mom and kids into your home and be okay with letting the kids play on their own while you get to know the mom. Empty nester, widow, or wise senior woman, fill the empty rooms of your home with laughter by inviting in a fellow woman in your stage. You can even reach out to the young mom and invite her over for coffee: your home will be full of noise once more, and they will be blown away that their chaos doesn’t scare you!
Young or old, new to your faith or seasoned in the faith, handy in the kitchen or the take-out queen—we each have a unique sphere of influence waiting for us to uniquely love them.
3. It can be implemented today.
Because there are no qualifiers, there is no preparation needed. You do not need to pray about it because it is a biblical mandate. So what is holding us back? My guess is probably fear. We’re afraid people will say no if we invite them in. We are afraid we can’t measure up to Hospitality Holly who always has the best recipes and beautiful decor. However, 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” Galatians 5:13 reminds us, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Through God we are free from fear and free to love! No preparation is needed to love others.
If you love to throw themed parties, are a fantastic cook, or simply love a good tablescape, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! Use those gifts and passions to love strangers in your beautiful way! If you are really good at ordering takeout, have never thrown a party, or are now googling “tablescape,” you can love strangers through eating Thai takeout while sitting in folding chairs just as well.
As to the responsibility of evangelism through hospitality, Ben Mandrell, pastor at Storyline Fellowship in CO, said recently, “Friendship opens the door like nothing else.” In order to share the gospel in the same manner that Jesus did, we first must simply love. Through biblical hospitality, friendships are formed. Through friendships, trust is built. Through that trust, we can then have honest conversations about the transforming power of Jesus Christ. Salvation starts with a basic love for strangers, or showing hospitality.