Hospitality: A Core Fruit of the Christian Life

by Jerry Root

untitled-design-17There is no greater news than this: “The God of the Universe knows you and loves you, and all of your sins and wrong doing. He forgives at His expense in Christ.”

In fact, scripture says, “God proves His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” This is truly good news full of hope and promise. It is only fitting that those who share this good news with others should exhibit acts of kindness while speaking words of grace.

Hospitality, and the utilizing of personal resources, should characterize the life of a Christian. In Matthew 10:42 we read, “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”

Sometimes, the smallest act of human kindness produces the greatest effects, and opens doors for the gospel. Giving a cup of cold water on a hot day may open a door to share the love of God with another person. Have you ever offered your mail man an opportunity to use your bathroom while he is delivering the mail? I have, and in time was eventually able to lead him to Christ, and also his children. It all started with a simple act of human kindness.

Beginning with a gift, an open heart, or an open home can gain access to the heart of another. If the gospel is anything, it is hospitable; as least, it should be. I remember once when Margaret Taylor, wife of Ken Taylor (who developed The Living Bible), told me, “If you can only be hospitable when everything is set up perfectly, you will not be hospitable with any frequency.”

She also used to say, “Always be ready to show hospitality; the need may occur more often than you had time to prepare; therefore, always be ready.” Furthermore, Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

In the New Testament there are many examples of the hospitable gospel at work. Saul of Tarsus came to the city of Damascus to arrest Christians and bring them to Jerusalem to face trial and possible execution. God had other plans for Saul and encountered him on the Damascus road.

You know the story. God told his servant Ananias to go to Saul. Ananias wasn’t too excited about this assignment, but he went to Saul, even with fear in his heart, because God told him to “get up and go.” God commanded hospitality and Ananias took him food. As Saul was with the disciples in Damascus, they demonstrated hospitality to him and nurtured him in his new faith. What do we learn from this? Food, resources, time, and our own homes are all useful tools for kingdom work.

It is fitting that true followers of Christ would be hospitable, for this is what Jesus was like. In Mark 2:1, the people of Capernaum heard that Jesus was at home. In the original, it strongly suggests that Jesus was at His home. A crowd came to see Him, and the house was so filled with people that it was standing room only.

There seemed to be no worries about mud on the carpet or spills on the furniture, for kingdom business was being conducted. In fact, there were some men who desperately wanted to bring their paralytic friend to Jesus, but they couldn’t get him into the house. So these men went up onto the roof and began tearing away the roof.

You can image the event from inside the house. The noise clomping around round on the roof could not be ignored. Soon, there was scratching and clawing at the roof that led to dust particles filling the house; perhaps coughing could not be avoided.

Then, a small hole in the roof appeared, letting in a beam of sunlight, illuminating all the scattering dust. The hole widened until four faces were peering in at those in the room. All were looking up, but no one asked, “What are you doing to my house?”

If this was Jesus’ house, then the lesson is clear. Personal stuff takes a backseat to kingdom work. In this case, the hospitality was a prequel to a presentation of the gospel.

The paralytic was lowered down into the room by the four friends. And Jesus’ first words to the man were, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” The religious leaders were incensed, saying among themselves, “Only God can forgive sins!”

As if Jesus heard their muttering, He said to the grumblers, “Which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Rise take up your pallet and walk?’ but, in order that you might know that the Son of Man has the power to forgive sins, I say to this man ‘Rise, take up you pallet and walk!’”

It was an unforgettable moment. Even the record of it in scripture is arresting, and affirming of the gospel of Christ. And yet, the whole telling of this event is contextualized by the willingness of someone, most likely Jesus Himself, using his house for kingdom business.

Hospitality ought to be one of the threads woven into the fabric of all who are eager to serve Christ. In this case, it appears likely that Jesus modeled the behavior that all following Him should practice.

Jerry RootJerry Root is a professor at Wheaton College and serves as the Director of the Evangelism Initiative as well as being a faculty/scholar at the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College. Jerry teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in evangelism and Christian formation and is a visiting professor at Talbot Graduate School of Theology and Biola University.