“[S]eek to show hospitality.”Romans 12:13
When my wife and I moved to South Dakota in 2004, I was not following Jesus. My wife Marie was really the only reason I went to church then. At Marie’s prompting, we visited church after church. We would slip in and out each Sunday without anyone ever really engaging us.
One Sunday, however, we visited a church where we had a very different experience. The pastor greeted us, asked us lots of questions to get to know us, and introduced us to other people to help us make connections. The pastor also invited us to fill out a connection card to share our contact information, which we did without thinking much about it.
But that wasn’t it. The next day, a lady from the church came to our house and shared with us a large homemade loaf of bread. She said how glad they were that we visited the church and hoped we’d come again. It was a simple gesture that simply amazed us.
Now, something you have to know about me is that I’m a simple man. I’m like a seagull at a beach. If you give me homemade bread, I’m going to come back.
And we did. We then had people invite us over to their homes for meals, which just helped us develop more and more friendships within the church. The hospitality started in the church, but it didn’t stay there. It extended to people’s homes.
The hospitality that was shown to us led to us calling that church home during our time in South Dakota. It wasn’t long that I then heard the gospel at that church in a way that hit differently. It resonated with me and I surrendered to Jesus in faith. And it started with hospitality.
As I experienced in my own life, hospitality can (and should) serve the Great Commission. Yet far too often, the church strives to be welcoming at the church (which it should), but then the hospitality stops there.
The reality is that hospitality – both extending it and receiving it – isn’t our natural tendency. Unfortunately, our sin-nature pulls us away from community and toward isolation. Dietrich Bonhoeffer made this point in his book Life Together. He wrote, “Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more extractive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in [sin], the more disastrous is his isolation.”
But the gospel compels us toward others and to welcome others. In 1 Thessalonians 2:8, Paul writes, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”
The gospel doesn’t compel us to shout the gospel at other people from a distance. It compels us to draw close to people, to welcome others into our homes as we share the gospel.
Psalm 68:6 says, “God sets the lonely in families.” In a society increasingly gripped by loneliness and isolation, we, the church, have a gospel opportunity in our culture to be used by God as he sets the lonely in families. Church, we are the ones with the motivation, the message, and the means to welcome the lonely into our family of faith.
That’s why the time is now to be people of open homes where we live our lives openly toward others with a kingdom mindset that invites others in as we share Jesus with them.