Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9 (NIV)
The first team that I took to Tanzania were surprised at the hospitality of the local people in the village of Igoma. We were there for two full weeks and had the joy of working together to help build the clinic building for the church. But what was astonishing to most was that these people scurried around on departure day to be sure everyone was leaving with a gift. People who had next to nothing, lived in mud huts and lived from day to day and depended on the grace of God to sustain them wanted to be sure that we felt appreciated and loved. So, we were blessed with a gift to remember the friends we had for a short time, but brothers and sisters we have for eternity.
One author writes: “In many parts of North America, hospitality has become rather anemic. It often amounts to little more than a coffee gathering among friends. It’s more common to see “hospitality” advertised by restaurants, hotels, and resorts that try to snag my dollar when I’m on vacation.” I agree with him.
The hospitality of the Scriptures is not a welcome based on how much cash (or plastic) you have in your wallet to pay for a room and a meal. It’s not even confined to people who are “like us.” The hospitality Scripture speaks of is typically focused on people different from us.
Many of us have a certain fear of strangers. We’re intimidated by people who dress, eat, and talk differently than we do. But biblical hospitality looks beyond differences to see similarities – to recognize others as fellow image bearers of God. The hospitality of scripture is an act of welcoming grace – and participates in the very dynamic of the character of Jesus Christ. We would do well to remember the cliché of a few years ago: “What Would Jesus Do.”
One day Sarah and Abraham welcomed visitors who were actually the Lord and his angels. Whom in your community do you need to welcome in the name of our Lord? You may be surprised by who you showed hospitality (Hebrews 13:2).
Father, grant us the grace to overcome our fears and welcome people who need hospitality, that we may share the love we have received from you. In Jesus name, Amen.