Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Hospitality is something which the early church were asked to practice. Both St Paul and St Peter instructed the early church to be hospitable:
'Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.' 1 Peter 4: 7-9
'Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.' Romans 12: 12-13
Have you ever noticed that church meetings are much better attended if they:
b)Take place in a home
Why is this? Both of these ingredients make people feel welcome, comfortable and wanted. They have the effect of making someone new to church life feel part of the group. In our current society genuine hopsitality is usually only offered to close family and friends. If Christians open up their homes unconditionally, then surely their hospitable attitude will be received well and with pleasure, despite being counter cultural. However, in our private and inward looking society, Christians today often seem to ignore this important outward sign of Christ's love and practice hospitality rarely. I find this perplexing and worry about its effect on our witness as the body of Christ.
When I was a student, Christians from my church regularly used to invite people from the congregation around for Sunday lunch. They saw it as a time when they could get to know individuals and bond with them. We appreciate the invitation and felt a real sense of family...something we talk about a lot within the church. How many loving, close families do you know who never eat together or meet up just to spend time with one another? Very few I would imagine. And yet we so often think we can be the family of God without this important factor!
Building community then, is one of the most important building blocks if we want a healthy church. Without it, our effectiveness as the body of Christ is curbed and opportunities for showing the world the uniqueness of a Christ centred community are lost.
Paul and Peter had their reasons for encouraging Christians to be hospitable. The word is often mentioned in conjunction with the importance of loving one another: and love is so much better when it is shown tangibly.
In 3 John Gaius is asked to practice hospitalty. In Romans 16, Paul mentions the hospitality that Gaius has shown him. Clearly Gaius took the instruction seriously...why shouldn't we?