Summary: Using Abraham as an example of demonstrating love to newcomers to the church in practical ways. This sermon prepared us for our Friendship Sunday the following week.
Last week our focus was on how we can live out the second of the Great Commandments, to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Our particular focus was on demonstrating love to those who are not yet Christian or who may be Christian but are unchurched, they are not connected to Christ’s body the church. We discovered that one of the ways Jesus demonstrated love was by serving, he healed those who were sick, he cast out demons, he spent time with those whom society deemed untouchable: lepers, tax collectors & sinners, he washed his disciple’s feet, and he made the ultimate act of a servant by giving his life so that we can have eternal life. I challenged us to demonstrate God’s love like Jesus by serving our unchurched neighbor, by doing an act of kindness for them. Refuse to accept anything in return, money or otherwise, just do it as a free gift of love. If they ask why you did it, make sure to connect what you did with God, tell them you are doing it just because God loves them. One thing I forgot to tell you last week is to pray for them while you are serving. Pray they receive Jesus Christ, and/or that they get connected to God’s family, the church. I call this pre-evangelism, it is tilling the ground before the seed of God’s word about salvation is shared with someone. If you have not yet accomplished an act of kindness this past week, I encourage you to do so this week. If you were truly blessed, I would also appreciate it if you share your stories with me by writing me a note or an email.
This morning we continue with the theme “love your neighbor as yourself,” only this week we change the focus slightly to demonstrating God’s love in our home and church by the way we welcome visitors, guests, newcomers, or strangers (whatever word we choose to use). Welcoming others in love is what the Bible calls hospitality. The dictionary defines hospitality as:
“The friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers,” or “receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.”
But as Christians hospitality is more than being friendly to guests, it is an extension of our love and care for people. As Christians we are expected to demonstrate God’s love through hospitality, the Bible says: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it (Heb. 13:2, NRSV).”
In our story this morning we learn from Abraham how we should demonstrate hospitality to stranger or guests. One hot day, Abraham had some unexpected guests show up at his doorstep. Abraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the hottest part of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing nearby. The Bible tells us these men were not ordinary men, unbeknownst to Abraham these three men were not men at all but the Lord himself with two angels by his side, they disguised their true identity and appeared as three ordinary men passing by.
Three Biblical Approaches to Hospitality
1. Take the Initiative: Go To Them
What was Abraham’s response, How did Abraham offer hospitality? Let’s look at the text, in verse 2 it says: “When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them.”
The first thing Abraham did was take the initiative by going to them. He ran out to meet these men, he didn’t wait for them to come to him. Abraham could have sat in his tent and thought, “if they really need my help they’ll come over here,” or “perhaps if I sit here and wait they will move on to the next encampment. After all it’s still the middle of the day, they can get to where they are going by sundown.” That is not what Abraham did, he took the initiative, and went to them. In fact it says, he even hurried to greet them. The Biblical model for demonstrating love is for us to take the initiative, not to wait for them to make the first move. When God wanted to demonstrate his love for us, he took the initiative and sent his Son to earth. God always takes the initiative in demonstrating his love for us, even before we are aware of it. That is why we talked about evangelism, and making the effort to go to our neighbor and do something to demonstrate God’s love.
But what would it look like for us to take the initiative when it comes to the church? How might this look in the church if we made the effort to welcome a guest when they arrive at our church?
In one very large church Methodist church Amy and I attended in Lexington, KY as we pulled into our “visitor” parking space, which was close to the entrance (of course one of the reasons they needed these was so no one got lost on their campus) we were met by parking lot greeters who would come right to our car to welcome us and point us in the right direction. If it was raining outside they would take big golf umbrellas and help visitors, elderly, and handicapped into the building. Once we were inside the church there were a second set of greeters to welcome us and direct us to where we needed to go. If you were visiting that church wouldn’t it send a message that they cared about you?