9MARKS JOURNAL; 03.30.2021

When I saw the title of the book, I couldn’t help but laugh: Sorry, I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come: An Introvert’s Year of Living Dangerously. I can relate. Connecting with people doesn’t come easy for me. But I know that following Christ means being a part of a local church, and being a part of a local church means sometimes doing things that make you uncomfortable.

Hospitality isn’t easy, but God requires it. So let me encourage you to “live dangerously” by showing hospitality.

THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO

The New Testament makes a big deal of hospitality. Did you realize that? Paul includes hospitality in the list of the basics of the Christian life (Rom. 12:13; also 1 Peter 4:9). He says our elders or pastors must be characterized by it (1 Tim. 3:2), presumably so that they can set an example for the congregation. He says it should also characterize the older women in the church (1 Tim. 5:10), presumably for the same reason.

Hospitality is not the responsibility of extroverts but of every church member.

Biblical hospitality means far more than cake and coffee after the evening service. Showing hospitality calls for an open home, an open schedule, an open ear, and even an open wallet. Here’s my working definition of hospitality: a Christ-driven, selfless willingness to sacrifice our goods for the good of others (Rom. 12:13).

Christians must show hospitality to those we know, and to those we don’t. Hebrews 13:2 makes this clear, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” This passage clearly mandates that we show the sacrificial love of Christ to those outside our normal circle.

A stranger in Scripture isn’t necessarily someone we’re meeting for the first time. It may also refer to someone who is culturally different from us. In the Old Testament, a stranger was someone who was outside of God’s covenant nation of Israel. Paul has this in mind when he writes that the Gentile converts in Ephesus had been “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenant of promise” (Eph. 2:12). Through the power of the gospel, they are now members of the household of God.

When it comes to hospitality, we must “pursue with zeal” the practical needs of others. We must show the love of Christ to those who are demographically different; to Christians from other churches who are passing through (see 3 John); to visitors who show up to our church; to new members who seem awkward; and to neighbors who seem strange!

So, young people should reach out to old people—and vice versa. Where I pastor (South Africa), this means white church members should seek meaningful connections with black church members—and vice versa. It means those of Afrikaans culture should open their doors to those of English culture.

LIKE OUR FATHER

Brothers and sisters, when we demonstrate practical love for the strangers and saints among us, we reflect our Heavenly Father. Jesus said, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? . . . And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?” (Matt. 5:46–47).

Our heavenly Father gave his Son in order to meet our greatest need, the forgiveness of our sins. He reconciled us to himself while we were strangers, strangers who were also enemies (Rom 5:8). As we reflect upon God’s grace to us in Christ, our hearts ought to swell with a commitment to hospitality. We ought to reach out to others— without distinction— with sacrificial, needs-meeting love that leaves no room for grumbling (1 Pet. 4:9).

So Christians, whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you’re commanded to show hospitality even to the point of sacrifice—just like our Lord.

By Doug Van Meter