Summary: Hospitality isn’t just an admirable social skill; It’s essential for anyone who follows Christ. When we show kindness to outsiders, we reflect the character of God.
This morning, I’d like to talk about hospitality. Now, I realize that, being the Fourth of July weekend, you might have been expecting a sermon on a patriotic theme, something like "freedom", or "sacrifice", or "the faith of our founding fathers". So, to connect my topic with the holiday, I’ll share a brief historical note. Did you realize that one of the causes of the American Revolution was the issue of hospitality? Involuntary hospitality, to be precise. When Thomas Jefferson drew up the Declaration of Independence on behalf of the thirteen colonies, he listed all their reasons for separating from the Great Britain. And among the twenty-seven causes he listed was this one: that King George had quartered armed troops among them. In other words, the colonists had been compelled to provide food and lodging for British soldiers in their own homes. As you can imagine, they found this intolerable. How would you like it if a couple of Redcoats showed up at your door, demanded supper, and then informed you that they’d be sleeping in your rec room for the next couple of months? That’s why, when the U.S. Constitution was written several years later, it included this guarantee, that "No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."
By the way, what I just read is the third amendment to the Constitution. How many knew that was in the Bill of Rights? How many even knew it was in the Constitution? I didn’t. But isn’t it nice to know that if a Humvee pulls into your driveway, and a bunch of Marines pile out asking what’s for dinner, you can just tell them to move along?
Actually, one of the reasons I chose this topic was that, just as the third amendment is often overlooked when studying the Constitution, so 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.
"Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless--not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined." – Titus 1:7-8
Christ even pointed to the practice of hospitality as evidence that we have come to know him as Savior, and a lack of hospitality as evidence that we haven’t. In Matthew twenty-five, as he describes the last judgment, he makes this rather startling statement:
"Then the King will say to those on his right, ’Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in . . . I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
"Then he will say to those on his left, ’Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in . . . I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." – Matthew 25:34-35, 41-42, 45-46
In other words, hospitality – inviting into your home people who don’t normally belong there – is a sign of genuine faith. That’s kind of sobering, isn’t it? Especially if we’ve been neglecting it. And so, today we’re going to examine these questions: Why hospitality is so important; how this virtue is tied in to the core of the Christian message. What it is; what true hospitality consists of. And then how we can practice it; what can we do to grow in this area.