A Homily on Hospitality

“Seek to show hospitality” (Rom. 12:13). Among the apostles’ many exhortations in Romans 12 none may be more powerful for the life of the Christian and the Christian’s local church. You see, it is one thing for Paul to say love one another with brotherly affection (Rom 12:10) but quite another to say seek to show hospitality. The former is an attitude while the latter is an action; one is a creed and the other is a deed. Hospitality is love in action. It is Paul’s way of saying what James says: I will show you my faith by my works (James 2:18). I said there may be no more powerful imperative in Romans 12 because hospitality shows love. It breaks down walls. It opens the way of fellowship. It says to its recipient: “You are welcome here; I am privileged to have you in my home, at my table.” It does this because the New Testament word translated hospitality is philoxenia—the love of strangers. Let me exhort you, then, as a Christian and as a congregation to seek to show hospitality as a powerful expression of your love for Christ, his people, and those whom he calls us to love although they may not love us (Rom 12:14–21).

As a Christian
Paul commands us, in the first place, to show hospitality as Christians. This is one of the ways we show ourselves thankful to God and lay down our lives as living sacrifices in response to the sacrifice of Christ (Rom 12:1–2). God has shown you hospitality by granting you entrance into his Father’s house and lavish kingdom, now you do likewise: Welcome one another as Christ as welcomed you, for the glory of God (Rom 15:7). What is so interesting about this verb, seek (dioko), is that it is used elsewhere for running after something and even persecuting someone. For example, in Philippians 3:14 Paul says, I press on toward the goal for the prize. It has the idea of running after something or striving for a goal. In Romans Paul uses it figuratively to speak of our being zealous for hospitality. Hospitality takes effort; it takes work; it may even inconvenience you! We are to be hospitable as Christians with two groups: those who are saved and those who are strangers. With those who are saved Peter exhorts us as the Body of Christ: Show hospitality to one another without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9). With those who are strangers Hebrews exhorts us: Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares (Heb 13:2).

As a Congregation
Paul’s command can also be extended to our life together as a congregation Lord’s Day by Lord’s Day. What a wonderful way to show the love of Jesus Christ, especially to those who are broken, lonely, and in need to love! How can we all be hospitable on the Lord’s Day? When you see new people at church, welcome them into our congregation’s “home” by introducing yourself and genuinely seek to get to know them better. Offer them refreshments; hand them a bulletin; let them know where the child-care is if they have little children; and direct them to our literature rack/table. At the end of the service when you hear the minister say, “Greet each other in Christ’s name,” make sure you greet visitors in your area of the sanctuary. No one should ever leave the OURC without having been welcomed and feeling the warmth of Christian love. If you see someone sitting alone, in the back, then go greet them before they leave. How can it be any other way for us who have been so overwhelmed by the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord? Amen!

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