10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

(Hebrews 12:10-13)

In this passage the word translated “hospitality” is a combination of two terms, one meaning “love” and the other meaning “stranger.” The word “hospitality,” therefore, means “lover of strangers.” As we see this idea developed in the New Testament, it becomes obvious that this Christian characteristic is very broad in its application. The term is not limited in use to strangers only. It describes a desire to develop relationships with others, relationships that are mutually beneficial yet motivated by a sense of duty toward others. I want to emphasize, however, that desire alone is not sufficient. As in most things, the desire is the place to begin, but more has to follow.

Having been in the pastoral ministry for almost 30 years I would rank complaints about relationships as the number one grievance expressed by believers. “That church isn’t friendly.” “I don’t feel welcomed in that church.” “I don’t think people really care if I’m around.” “That church is full of cliques.” “I was sick for a week and no one called me.” Such representative statements could be multiplied. We are, when all is said and done, very self-centered creatures. Our analysis of just about everything in life begins with our own sense of comfort.

Where do I begin if I want to understand this issue more profitably? I don’t begin by looking at others and reaching conclusions about whether they have been as friendly and open to me as I think proper. It is this kind of approach that leads to the opinions I just repeated. It is essential, therefore, that we recognize that the Bible instructs us to practice hospitality, it does not instruct us to judge the hospitality of others.

Typically, when we think of hospitality, we think of having someone in our home for a meal. Without question, that is one of the primary ways in which we show hospitality. Eating is a fundamental human activity and when you share that time with someone, you are involving them in one of your most basic habits in life. So, this is an ideal way to develop relationships. But if, at the heart of this characteristic is the desire to build relationships, then we must admit that sharing a meal, while it might be one of the most natural ways of showing hospitality, is not by any means the only way. The truth is, there are a multitude of activities that would amount to hospitality. Just about anything done for the good of another qualifies. All such efforts contribute to the building of relationships.

In summary, hospitality is not limited to having people over for dinner. It is about getting involved in the lives of others in ways that allow you to serve them and genuinely help them. Would you say that you are a hospitable person?

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