***This post was inspired by the wonderful new book, Listen, Love, Repeat: Other-Centered Living in a Self-Centered World, by Karen Ehman, which releases November 15th! You can purchase a copy at http://listenloverepeatbook.com.
Hospitality. It’s a word that can oftentimes strike fear and dread in the hearts of Christian women everywhere. I submit to you today the notion that this is precisely how Satan wants things to be when we think of hospitality. He hates hospitality, for he understands and fears its power, and he wants us to hate it just as much as he does. The question is…do we? [clickToTweet tweet=”Whose footsteps are we following in when it comes to hospitality and our view thereof? God’s or Satan’s? ” quote=”Whose footsteps are we following in when it comes to hospitality and our view thereof? God’s or Satan’s? “]It’s a sobering thing to think about.
The myths, misunderstandings, and sinful tendencies which mar our view of hospitality are myriad. We think hospitality requires the cleanest, fanciest, most beautiful, tastiest home furnishings, meals, china, and atmosphere and grow self-conscious and discouraged when our reality does not match up with that man-made Pinterest picture in our heads. We confuse hospitality with entertaining and become overwhelmed and preoccupied with thoughts of how to be the best hostess, how to pull off the perfect dinner party, how to impress our guests, how, how, how. We have little children and fall into the false belief that that precludes us from successfully practicing hospitality. We have a greater love for our own interests, schedules, and daily pursuits than we do the soul needs of others. We mistakenly view hospitality as optional rather than directly commanded by God. We fail to understand the power hospitality carries with it for advancing the Kingdom of God and do not grasp the huge part hospitality played in Jesus’ own earthly ministry.
The Importance of Hospitality
“10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.” ~Romans 12:10-13
“8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’ 9 Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” ~1 Peter 4:8-9
“A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach;” ~ 1 Timothy 3:2
“For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, 8 but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.” ~Titus 1:7-9
“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. ~Hebrews 13:2
“Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man, 10 well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work. ~ 1 Timothy 5:9-10
“Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? 7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? 8 Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you;the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ ~Isaiah 58:6-9
“Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When (not if! 😉 ) you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” ~Luke 14:12-14
Throughout the Scriptures, in both the Old and New Testaments alike, we see hospitality as simply a way of life for God’s people, a practice which should be a very defining characteristic of those who claim the Lord’s name. So much so that widows who had not practiced hospitality were unqualified for being provided for materially by the church and men who were not given to hospitality were disqualified from leadership positions in the church. Hospitality is a big deal in the Kingdom of God! Why is this? Consider the following quotes for a moment:
“It (hospitality) is nothing less than the joyous, habitual offering of those who recall a gracious table set before them in the presence of their enemies (Ps. 23:5), of those who look forward to a glorious table yet to come (Rev. 19:6–9).” ~Jen Wilkin
“You know what the key to evangelism in the 21st century will be, don’t you? Hospitality.” ~Steve Childers
“Strategic hospitality . . . asks: How can I draw the most people into a deep experience of God’s hospitality by the use of my home? Who are the people who could be brought together in my home most strategically for the sake of the kingdom? . . . Strategic hospitality is not content to just have the old clan over for dinner again and again. It strategizes how to make the hospitality of God known and felt all over the world, from the lonely church member right here, to the Gola farmers in Tahn, Liberia. Don’t ever underestimate the power of your living room as a launching pad for new life and hope and ministry and mission!” ~John Piper
“Cultivating a heart for hospitality begins with a mental grid of seeing those in your home as a divine appointment allowed by God to extend His generous and gentle love, His words of healing, His promise of hope.” ~Sally Clarkson
Hospitality is big on the Lord’s agenda as a means for advancing His kingdom because the sharing of God’s truth tends to have much more of an impact when people are in community and relationship than when those same truths are merely shouted at folks by street preachers or door-to-door evangelists. When you tangibly show the love of Christ to someone on a regular basis and you make clear to them the concern and care you have for them and their souls, their hearts soften and they become much more open to hearing what you have to say about your Lord and Savior, for they see the impact He has in your own life.
Jesus, our perfect example for how to serve and reach others, clearly understood this concept, for when you study the Gospels and examine His public ministry, so much of it took place in homes and over the dinner table. He dined with the tax collector, Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), He regularly dined with sinners (Mark 2:15-17), He had a great impact on Mary and Martha while in their home and through His friendship with them (Luke 10:38-42), He even spent His final evening before being crucified by sharing a Passover meal with His disciples (Matthew 26:17-30), and He goes so far as to make it clear He expects that the practicing of hospitality will be the norm for His followers (Matthew 25:31-45, Luke 14:12-14). This kind of “dinner table evangelism” has, unfortunately, been largely lost in today’s busy, fast-paced, self-centered culture. Is it any wonder that we daily see the ongoing weakening of the church in America and the continued degradation of our country as a whole? When the ministering to the lost and the proclamation of the Gospel is left to the pastors in the pulpits and Christian homes are selfishly closed off to the needy, lost, searching, hungry, destitute people in the world, the Great Commission is neglected and Satan laughs with glee. It’s time to rise up, Church, and revisit the lost art of intentional, warm, open, caring, regular Christian hospitality!
Yes, But How?
A dear friend in our weekly Bible study group regularly refers to the YBH or the “Yes, but how”? She is referring to that question you raise when you read a convicting or inspiring book or blog post full of good theology, interesting teaching, and thoughts on Christian living, and then are left hanging because the author failed to provide you with practical action points or specific ideas for ways to apply to your daily life what you have learned. This is where Karen Ehman’s fantastic new book, “Listen, Love, Repeat” comes in! Though it, too, is packed with teachings from Scripture which provide the foundation and the “Why?” for living an others-centered life, she doesn’t make the common mistake of merely stopping there. Far from it! Instead, page after page and chapter after chapter contain easy, practical, thought-provoking, inspiring action points, ideas, and suggestions for how we can take this concept of living a life of service to others as a means of pointing them to Christ and sharing His love with them and make it an everyday reality right where we are in the midst of our current season of life. Of all the many aspects I adore about this book, this has to be my absolute favorite, for true change is only going to be wrought in our daily lives if we are provided with the inspiration and means of making a difference. Karen has done the Body of Christ -and, through us, the world as a whole- a great service through the writing of this delightful, inspiring book and I cannot recommend it enough!
Not only does she speak to topics such as hospitality in the home and offer much-needed encouragement as to why you don’t need the cleanest home or best china or most gourmet meals in order to bless your guests, she also takes the concept of hospitality many steps further by applying the cultivation of a heart of love and service to our own families, the everyday “necessary” people we so often take for granted (such as the mailman, grocery bagger, fast food worker, firefighter, waitress, cosmetologist, doctor, etc.), and to strangers on the street or in the supermarket. After all, the word translated in the Bible as “hospitality”, philoxenia, literally means “lover of strangers”. Practicing hospitality does not merely mean having people into your home, nor does it refer to having just your good friends over for a dinner party (though that is a lovely thing to do and is a great way to encourage your friends in their own walks with the Lord!). Rather, it speaks to loving strangers, regardless of where you are. In Listen, Love, Repeat, Karen speaks of showing random acts of kindness to the person behind you in the coffee shop line by paying for their order or offering an elderly woman your assistance with carrying her heavy load for her (and, yes, there is actually a great true story about this kind of act of service in the book!). There are a myriad of ways in which we can shower others with the love of Christ and point them to Him every day of our lives, both in our homes and when we encounter others while out and about. This kind of others-centered, Christ-centered lifestyle merely requires that we be aware of the needs of those around us, that we keep an eye and ear out for folks who need help and encouragement, and that we do not selfishly give in to only our own interests and schedules or to the busy, fast-paced way of life we are so accustomed to and instead slow down, eagerly looking out for whomever the Lord may providentially place in our paths who have a need.
With that, I want to end today’s article with a few choice quotes from Karen’s book, in the hopes that they would inspire you, too, to go “Listen, Love, Repeat” (and, you know, also whet your appetite for more of the book and encourage you to go preorder your own copy! 😉 Which, if you do so before November 15th, qualifies you for all of these great freebies and extras!!).
“I am a woman who wants to love God, but so often I am too busy to love the people He puts in my path. Such love is important, more important than all the sacrifices we could make. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these’, Jesus said (Mark 12:31). I can do something. So can you. We can pause, permitting God to tap us on the heart, gently interrupt us, and rearrange our day. We can purpose to go deeper – beyond a hurried ‘Hi!’ to an authentic, ‘How are you?’ When God knocks on our hearts, we can knock on their doors. Will you do it? Will you try? Then once you’ve reached out, leave the results to God. Our job is obedience. God will do the rest.”
“Our lives can have more meaning and seem more of an exciting adventure if we stop to notice these necessary people. As we recognize them as image bearers of God Himself, we will be more cognizant not only to thank them for their service but to do something to encourage them as well.”
“Living a life of welcome – opening both your heart and your home – means your stuff gets used. And reused. Over and over again. Your items get nicked and scratched. Your carpet and rugs and linens get stained. While this doesn’t mean we don’t try to make our surroundings pleasant, it does mean we learn to accept some degree of imperfection. Well-used items often mean that we have loved well….. What happens to them [my belongings] while they are being used here on Earth to build His kingdom is not my concern. My concern should be with my attitude towards using these things to reach out to others.”
“When we have a God-honoring perspective about our possessions and resources, our hearts and homes can become a wheelhouse for ministry. We can lead with our hearts and bless with our homes, making our homes a haven not only for those who dwell there permanently but for whoever God sends our way. And believe me, He will send people your way. As I look back over two decades of married life, I see many times that God has used our home as a haven for others – first in our tiny apartment and now in our average-size home as a family of five….Our aim is the same for all of these guests. We don’t offer hospitality to them in order to impress them with our home or our food or our decorating prowess. Instead, we want to refresh them. To give them a place where they can relax and unwind. To provide a setting where they can talk and question and contemplate. Most of all, we offer our home to God to be used as a ministry tool in building His kingdom-temple here on earth.”
“We are doing exactly what God expects us to do when we offer hospitality. Without grumbling. Or fretting over our broken and soiled stuff or our ‘too small’ home. If there is room in your heart, you’ll make room in your home.”(emphasis mine)
“Before you begin to prepare your home for planned guests or impromptu company, you first must prepare your heart. Each morning ask God to help you to have a willing and hospitable spirit towards whomever He sends your way. Pray that He will direct your time spent in the Scriptures to specific verses you may use to comfort or encourage others as you visit with them in your home. Ask Him to soften your heart and remove any sense of exclusive ownership over your possessions. Cultivate the perspective that David had: everything comes from God. Then be prepared to use what God has given you to bless and strengthen others.”
“Jesus’ real ministry was the person He found standing in front of Him. Who is that for you today? Rather than trying to do something grand for God, perhaps we need to embrace the obscure instead. To stop trying to be profound or important and instead just be obedient.”
God bless you as you seek to listen for the needs of others, love them as Christ loves you, and then repeat over and over again!
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