Our readings for today recount how various acts of kindness and warmth paid off generously for those who engaged in them. In Gen. 18:1-15), Abraham went out of his way to host three men who turned out to be angels.
They were on their way to assess the acclaimed sinfulness of Sodom and Gomorrah to determine whether to mete out the planned punishment to them.
Abraham’s decision to be hospitable to these strangers did not only result in him receiving affirmation of God’s promise to make him the father of nations, but also led to a firm date for the fulfillment of God’s promise being disclosed: “within a year!”
Abraham also got the opportunity to learn about the impending destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah where his nephew Lot lived, and even had the privilege to plead on their behalf.
In Rom. 5:1-8, Apostle Paul illuminates Christ’s example of hospitality when he died sacrificially to guarantee our salvation; even when we had done no good demonstrated a potential to repay His sacrifice.
His was a selfless and proactive act for us who were then “strangers” to the grace of God.
In Matt.9:35-38 and 10:1-8, St. Matthew also recounts how Jesus went about doing good throughout His 3 years ministry. He was moved by compassion for the people he encountered, taught and interacted with. He did not deal with them on the basis of what He knew or perceived of their social class or status. Christ did not also get fixated on Himself and His spirituality so as to ignore the psycho-physical needs of the people. He instead, demonstrated how spirituality should be manifested – SELFLESSNESS!
Christ led and taught by practical example, that godliness is tangible! It lies in how we deal with each other.
From these biblical examples, what is hospitality? The accounts of scripture provide the context of our definition and appreciation of what hospitality is and should be for a child of God.
Hospitality means much more than a simple welcome or an offer of food or drink. Being hospitable is an attitude of heart that opens up to others and receives them on their own terms. It is about accommodating others especially “strangers” (people we are not familiar with or do not consider as our friends) as they are and aiding them to achieve their goals even when we are not sure of a commensurate reward or benefit for doing so.
Hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adopt the lifestyle of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his own.
Why should you care about being hospitable the godly way? The Lord enjoins us to do so (John 14:15… if you love me, keep my commandments). Secondly, God rewards hospitality generously… “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord and He will reward them for what they have done” (Prov. 19:17). Thirdly, it makes the world a lot more comfortable and enjoyable… “little acts of charity; makes a massively joyous world” and lastly, it illuminates the rule of the Lord over the world
How can we practice godly hospitality effectively?
First, we need to be SELFLESS – Widow of Zarephath; Father Abraham A hospitable person offers the stranger space to pursue and achieve their goals. To do so, we have to be willing to be vulnerable and open to new ways of doing things. Prov. 3:27 says that; “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due (not your friends only) when it is in your power to act”
Secondly, be OPEN - Lydia of Thyatira A hospitable person is receptive to what strangers bring. Receptivity to strangers or to new things can change us, enrich our lives and lead us to new possibilities.
Thirdly, be ATTENTIVE – Jesus’ reaction to the people he encountered (Matt. 14:13-21; Acts 10:38) Hospitality requires attentiveness to the needs of others to the point of anticipating such needs and meeting them. Paying attention to others causes us to avoid self-centeredness which is the basis of all uncharitable behaviour. “whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, so you do on to me” (Matt. 25:40)
Fourthly be CHRISTLIKE as directed in Romans 13:14; “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to fulfil its lusts”. You can do this when you: a. Submit to His authority, clothe yourself in His character, Exemplify Him in your daily lifestyle.
Divine rewards for godly hospitality
The Lord establishes His word concerning you (a definite timing for the birth of Isaac). Secondly, the Lord elevates you to a position of privilege in divine affairs (Sodom & Gomorrah), Again, the Lord overwhelms you with His blessings (Widow of Zarephath). Also being hospitable enhances your social status (Lydia of Thyatira)
The act of hospitality is a virtue. It is a reflection of the attitude of the heart. Prov. 4:23, admonishes us to “Guard our heart with all diligence, for from it flow springs of life”. Often our lack of hospitality is simply our failure to notice and acknowledge others and their needs. Jesus models that attentiveness.
He noticed the sick, the excluded, the hungry, those that others passed by and till today, continues to be attentive to our needs. The Christian spirit is a spirit of generosity, therefore to live the Christ we profess; we ought to be selfless, thoughtful and generous…
WE OUGHT TO BE HOSPITABLE THE GODLY WAY in order to please Him! May the God who called us and justified us sanctify us; may He in His infinite mercy empower us to soldier on boldly as we strive daily to perfect our imperfect ways.