I Peter Chapters 4 and 5
This week’s reading is found in chapter 4:9. “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” When was the last time you had someone over to your house to eat dinner or lunch: sometime in the last 30 days, in the last six months, or I can’t remember. Which of these have you done in the last 3 months: I had a guest at my house for dinner, I went over to someone else’s house for dinner, or I had someone I did not know very well at my house for lunch. It is interesting that Peter says to be hospitable ‘without grumbling.” Being hospitable can be sacrificial and often we would rather not do it. Yet the command to be hospitable is unconditional. It does not say, “Show hospitality if you have time, or if it is convenient or, or if you feel comfortable doing it, or if you have a big enough house or if you have a complete set of matching dishes.” We are called to be hospitable no matter who we are and no matter what our circumstances are, and we are to do it without complaining.
The issue of hospitality is often overlooked when we study Christian discipleship. Think about it. If you were asked to identify which character traits a mature believer should possess, which character traits we should be striving to build into our lives, hospitality probably would not be high on the list. It seems like one of the less important, and perhaps even optional virtues, something akin to interior decorating, or flower arranging, or the art of making polite conversation. But that’s not how the Bible presents it. In both the Old and New Testaments, hospitality is seen as absolutely essential. For example, Paul identifies it as one of the basic qualifications for a pastor or an elder, a non-negotiable requirement for spiritual leadership. In I Tim 3:2 church leaders are to be “given to hospitality.” In Titus 1:7-8 ministers are told to be lovers of hospitality. Also in Romans 12:13 Paul wrote, “Give yourselves to hospitality.” The NIV reads “Practice” I like this idea of practicing hospitality, just like you practice an instrument! At first, you may not be very good, but as you practice you get better. For some of us, inviting people to our house can make us feel very uncomfortable. We may not feel very good at it. But with practice, we can get better.
Hospitality should occupy a place in every believer’s heart. It is not supposed to be something that only the South is known for. It is not something that only those who may have a special gift for entertaining are supposed to show. Hospitality can take the form of sharing a meal, an evening discussion, playing a game, watching a movie, etc. This is not talking about costly displays and big parties, but simple acts of love and kindness. There are a lot of lonely people in our community and in our church. Some have never been invited to another person’s house or it has been so long since they have been invited to another person’s house that they cannot remember it. We can show hospitality by reaching out to the broken, the poor, and the people in need. We can show hospitality by reaching out to our church family to deepen relationships. We can show hospitality by opening our homes to the internationals. We can show hospitality by inviting someone from church on Sunday over to your house.
While hospitality does not obtain salvation for anyone it is truly the result of salvation. The true measure of someone’s Christianity is not dependent on how they do on Sunday. The true measure of someone’s Christianity is not dependent on whether they speak in tongues, preach a good sermon, love to worship, carry a big bible, tell others about salvation, wear Christian jewelry, or listen to Christian music. Those who pray, study their Bibles, and never miss a Sunday service at church, but who never give themselves to hospitality, are missing out on what Christianity is all about. Peter is saying we should be open and intentional about being hospitable to the people we meet. It does not just happen. It means being willing to invite people over when they need a meal or a conversation, even if it’s not the most convenient time. Hospitality is not distinctive to Christianity. It has been a part of many cultures for a long time and in some, it is even considered a sacred responsibility. Yet, Christians, of all people, are to be hospitable. It is truly a mark of Christian maturity. It is not just a sacred duty but also rather an act of Christian love. The Christian is to have an open heart, open hand, and an open door. Invite someone to your house today, and do it ‘without grumbling!” You will be glad you did!