Practicing Hospitality: The Joy of Serving Others
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by Patricia A. Ennis, Lisa Tatlock
Description: This practical resource defines biblical hospitality and illustrates how all believers can practice hospitality from a biblical perspective.
eBook Publisher: Crossway Books, 2009
eBookwise Release Date: July 2009
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [322 KB]
Reading time: 182-255 min.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.
Character--what is it? "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son"(Rom. 8:29). The desire to encourage twenty-first-century society to embrace some form of ethical values is evident in the establishment of numerous secular organizations, including the Josephson Institute, at which the sole purpose is to remind the culture that "character does count." Their literature suggests that a person of character:
[Footnote 1: www.charactercounts.org.]
+ is a good person, someone to look up to and admire;
+ knows the difference between right and wrong and always tries to do what is right;
+ sets a good example for everyone;
+ makes the world a better place;
+ lives according to the "Six Pillars of Character":trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship.
[Footnote 2: Ibid.]
As a member of twenty-first-century society, I can certainly affirm their definition of a person of character; however, as I ponder the definition, I find myself searching for a standard by which to measure my application of it. Because I am a Christian first and a member of society second, I am blessed to have the Word of God as a standard that challenges me to cultivate a lifestyle that conforms me to the only Person who exhibited character in its purest form--Jesus Christ. Daily it is my prayer that I can say to those whose lives I touch, "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ"(1 Cor. 11:1). As well, as I internalize my heavenly Father'sWord, I am challenged to embrace his standard of femininity--a quality that, from a biblical perspective, has little to do with appearance and everything to do with character.
[Footnote 3: See John MacArthur, Think Biblically! Recoveringa Christian Worldview(Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2003), 169-, for elaboration.]
Since we are blending hospitality and character, let'stake a survey of the Scriptures and create a word collage of what a person of character who desires to practice hospitality might look like. Our collage could be labeled:
A Person of Christian Character Who Practices
"Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble'"(1 Pet. 5:5). Humility is the most foundational Christian virtue and is the quality of character commanded in the first beatitude, according to Matthew 5:3. Being poor in spirit (humble) is to be the opposite of self-sufficient. It speaks of the deep humility of recognizing our utter spiritual bankruptcy apart from God. It describes those who are acutely conscious of their lostness and hopelessness apart from divine grace. Humility, according to Micah 6:8, is a necessary prerequisite if we are going to be of service to our heavenly Father.
[Footnote 4: John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible(Nashville, TN: Word, 1997), note at Matthew 5:3.]
The evidence of my application of this quality is demonstrated when I choose to step out of my comfort zone and invite into my home individuals with whom I may not be totally at ease, or those who may have unrealistic expectations about the event because, after all, I am a professional home economist. I am comforted, however, when I look into my "spiritual closet"and find the perfect garment for this occasion, the garment of humility. When I don this garment I am reminded that I am not too good to serve--and this is pleasing to my heavenly Father (1 Pet. 5:5).
Though I entertain throughout the year, probably the most significant event that occurs at our home the last Friday of each spring semester is the Home Economics Department'ssenior dessert. Quite frankly, it is not a convenient time to entertain--the end-of-the-year activities, campus responsibilities, and paper grading impact my already busy schedule. Satan could easily discourage me by suggesting, as I prepare the dessert, clean the house, set up tables and chairs so that everyone can be comfortably seated, and put the devotion in order, that perhaps it is unnecessary for me to add this event to my already busy schedule. However, instead of allowing Satan'slie to take root in my heart, I choose to focus on the act of selfless service that was taught by my Lord as he washed his disciples'feet (John 13:1-). The shift in my attitude brings to remembrance that this is one of the last opportunities I have to model to my "younger women"(Titus 2:4-) the character qualities I sought to integrate into their lives during their academic sojourn.
With my Lord'smodel preeminent, the evening becomes one of tenderness and affirmation as we celebrate this major milestone. Later, as our home is put back into order from the evening'sevent, I am reminded that memories take time and energy to create--and I may have taught my "younger women"more lessons that one evening than during the entirety of their college education. As you consider performing acts of hospitality, is humility your foundational Christian virtue?
"Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice"(1 Sam. 15:22). The words of John 14:15, 21-clearly identify that the primary evidence that individuals are Christians is their choice to obey their Father'scommands. Writing on these passages, John MacArthur states: "Love for Christ is inseparable from obedience"and "Jesus emphasized the need for the habitual practice of obedience to His commands as evidence of the believer'slove for Him and the Father." Though we live in a world that promotes "have things your own way,"I learned that to please my heavenly Father I need to respond to all of his instructions with an obedient spirit and not just pick those that appeal to me--and that includes my response to what his Word teaches about hospitality. Let'sexamine his instructions.
[Footnote 5: John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, notes at John 14:15 and John 14:21-.]
[Footnote 6: See Pat Ennis and Lisa Tatlock, Designing a Lifestyle That Pleases God(Chicago: Moody, 2004), 45.]
Romans 12:13 says I am to practice hospitality--literally I am to "show hospitality"(Heb.13:2)--not simply offer hospitality to my friends. The subtitle for the section where this verse is found in my study Bible is "Behave like a Christian," which appears in a list of traits that characterize the Spirit-filled life. The application is clear: if I want to demonstrate obedience to my heavenly Father, I will choose to practice hospitality.
[Footnote 7: John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, notes at Romans 12:9-.]
First Peter 4:9 builds on the instruction to practice hospitality and reminds me that my attitude is of utmost importance--I am to practice hospitality without complaining! This verse challenges me to conduct a heart search to discern what my attitude is and whether I am approaching this opportunity to minister enthusiastically (Col. 3:23).
I am reminded in Hebrews 13:2 that my willingness to extend hospitality may have far-reaching implications. As we study the lives of Abraham and Sarah (Gen. 18:1-), Lot (Gen. 19:1-), Gideon (Judg. 6:11-), and Manoah (Judg. 13:6-), we learn that all entertained strangers who were actually special messengers from God. While my motive should never be to give so that I will receive, Luke 6:38 clearly states that the measuring cup that I use to dispense my gifts and talents will be the same one used to provide my needs. As I tabulated Cherie Land'ssurvey for Practicing Hospitality, her response to the question, "How have you used your home as a center for evangelism?"provided a practical application to this truth:
When we moved into our new house I asked the Lord to show me what he wanted me to do in this neighborhood. Well, one day the neighbor lady came and asked what I did to get my children to turn out the way they did, and I said it is only by the grace of God that my children are the way they are. She wanted help with her four-year-old. A few days later she called and said she needed to talk; she came over and was in tears, so I just shared with her and prayed for her right on the spot. I also had your first book (Becoming a Woman Who Pleases God) and had only read the first chapter and half of the second, but I gave it to her to read and look up the Scripture verses. It is very amazing the difference in her and the man that she is living with. All this took place on a day that I had scheduled down to the last minute and needed to get things done. Even though I got behind because of the neighbor I was still able to get everything done. Since this has happened I purchased another copy of your book.
[Footnote 8: See"List of Contributors"in this volume.]
Cherie's neighbor may enter heaven because of Cherie' swillingness to take the time to share her faith at an inconvenient time.
Third John 7-challenges me to extend hospitality to those involved in ministry for our Lord. It is exciting to know that as I share my home and resources with our Lord'sservants, I become an active part of their ministry.
One of the requirements for church leadership, according to 1 Timothy 3:1-and Titus 1:7-, is a willingness to allow others to observe them in their homes--the arena where their character is most graphically revealed. My friend Donna Morley describes the frequent twenty-first-century approach to this requirement:
I remember once meeting a Christian woman who said point blank, "I would love to get to know you by talking on the telephone from time to time, but don'texpect our families to get together. No offense--it'sjust that we don'tentertain, and we like to keep to ourselves."After this woman'sremark, I started to think how much this is becoming the norm in the Christian community. Why? Because we are living in a society that craves privacy and lack of involvement."
[Footnote 9: Donna Morley, Choices That Lead to Godliness (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1999), 169.]
As you consider this statement, what is your response? Are you willing to follow this command and allow our Lord to work his mysterious ways through the unique environment that hospitality provides or will you choose to "keep to yourself"?If you are involved in church leadership it is necessary to keep in focus that these verses are requirements, not suggestions!
Our graying population gives the hospitality requirement found in 1 Timothy 5:9-particular significance, since these verses suggest that only those widows who have extended hospitality, among other qualifications, can expect to be materially nurtured by the church. As you consider this requirement, may I suggest several questions:
+ Does your church have a plan for materially nurturing true widows?
+ Do you know who the true widows are?
+ Are you following the biblical instruction to assist in the material nurturing of widows?
+ Does your life exemplify the qualities outlined in 1 Timothy 5:9-so that you would qualify for placement on the "true widows"list?
"For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you"(2 Cor. 1:12). Have you ever been invited to an event but felt that you were not really wanted? Perhaps the hostess was very gracious in extending the invitation, but either by her body language, tone of voice, or the conditions under which the invitation was received, you questioned its genuineness. When we extend hospitality, if we desire to please our heavenly Father, we need to endeavor to possess a spirit of sincerity. Philippians 1:10 provides us with the litmus, or perhaps we should say with the "pottery test" of sincerity. John MacArthur illuminates our understanding of this character quality as he writes:
"Sincere"means "genuine"and may have originally meant "tested by sunlight."In the ancient world, dishonest pottery dealers filled cracks in their inferior products with wax before glazing and painting them, making worthless pots difficult to distinguish from expensive ones. The only way to avoid being defrauded was to hold the pot to the sun, making the wax-filled cracks obvious. Dealers marked their fine pottery that could withstand "sun testing"as sine cera--"without wax."
[Footnote 10: John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, notes at Philippians 1:10.]
Granted, there are times when we may need to deal with our attitude before issuing the invitation, but we need to "stay on our knees"until it can be communicated sine cera!
"Pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). Scores of books instruct the believer about prayer, from purpose to posture. As well, multiple Scriptures encourage us to cultivate an intimate relationship with our heavenly Father through prayer (my Exhaustive Strong's Concordance lists a minimum of 464 verses under the topics of "pray" and "prayers"). As we consider prayer and its role in hospitality, let' stake a moment to remind ourselves why we should pray.
+ Prayer is commanded (Eph. 6:18; 1 Thess. 5:17).
+ It is a sin not to pray (1 Sam. 12:23).
+ Prayer gives glory to God (Dan. 9:16-; John 14:13-).
+ Prayer aligns us with God'spurposes (Matt. 6:9-).
+ Prayer results in answers (James 5:16; 1 John 5:15).
[Footnote 11: John MacArthur, Lord Teach Me to Pray(Nashville, TN: J. Countryman, 2003), 19.]
Having identified why we should pray, let'smove the theological reasons into practical application. We'lltitle our prayer rationale: