This morning's blog post comes to us from CARE for AIDS summer intern, Anna Wilke.
“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Romans 15:7
Until recently, whenever I thought about hospitality I immediately associated it with what I was taught growing up about being a gracious host, but that is not what true hospitality is all about. A few weeks ago I started learning and understanding what the Bible says about hospitality, and it encompasses a lot more than just hosting a dinner party. Biblical hospitality is about more than just inviting friends over, it is making room in our lives for others. True hospitality is about making people feel welcome and wanted no matter who they are or where they come from. Hospitality should extend to more than just those who are easy to love; it includes total strangers, the people who have wronged you, the self-righteous, and the hurting. Hospitality is often untidy and inconvenient, but making room for others is not about our own comfort because the heart of hospitality is finding people in all walks of life and bringing them in.
So why is hospitality so important? We should practice hospitality because we are called to be imitators of Christ (Eph. 5:1) and the ultimate act of hospitality was when Jesus Christ died for sinners to make everyone who believes a member of the household of God. In Mark 12, Jesus explains that the greatest commandment is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” With this twofold response Jesus showed these two commandments are interrelated and inseparable. If we are truly loving God, we are loving people and part of loving people is making room for them to feel welcome. We are offered hospitality in our everyday lives more than we realize. Others have given us their time, provided meals for us, given their forgiveness when we have wronged them, and so much more. But even more extravagant than the hospitality offered to us by others is the hospitality offered to us by our Heavenly Father. Again and again God has laid a feast before us even in the face of our wrongs against Him. Again and again He invites us back to His table.
Since we are called to bear the image of Christ, we are called to love every person with whom we come in contact. How is it possible to show love to every person we meet? The truth is, in our own strength we can’t, but the Bible tells us that people who are of God can love others because He first loved us. We serve a God who shows no favoritism (Romans 2:11). When we show favoritism, loving only those who are easy and convenient to love, we are not loving as Christ loved us. It can be difficult to love strangers, to love the self righteous, and especially to love those who have betrayed us, but God is with us when we welcome people into our lives, He is with us when our patience wears thin, and He blesses our feeble attempts to honor Him through hospitality. Making room in relationships and conversations and making room in our lives to suffer with and celebrate others are two of the best ways to show them that we love them.
We all love to feel welcome and we love when people make room for us around their table, so why shouldn’t we do the same for others? Imagine a life that when people get closer to you, when they get into your home and around your table, what they experience is a feeling that they are loved, that they belong, that you weren’t too busy to spend time with them, and they walk away feeling the deep love of Christ through your life. Imagine a life spent welcoming others to His table, a table that has room for each one of us.