Having grown up in the southern part of the United States, I’ve been well acquainted with hospitality. People around this part of the world are known for their “southern hospitality.”
However, it’s important to understand the biblical meaning of the word. We often think of hospitality as being kind to our neighbors or having friends over for dessert. This doesn’t exactly fit the true meaning of the word.
In the New Testament, the Greek word for “hospitality” is philozenia. It comes from two Greek words—philos, meaning “affection” or “brotherly love” and zenos, meaning “stranger.” Hospitality in the Bible literally means, “to show love to a stranger.”
The writer of Hebrews said, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers” (Hebrews 3:2a). Jesus instructed His disciples on hospitality saying, “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same” (Matthew 5:47)? Clearly Jesus illustrated hospitality in His story of the good Samaritan and He demonstrated hospitality in showing kindness to Zacchaeus the tax collector as well as many others.
For anyone committed to living a life of discipleship, practicing hospitality is critical. Since unbelievers today are less willing to come to our turf, we must learn to play on theirs. A key to this is practicing biblical hospitality. Christian hospitality involves welcoming unbelievers into our space, in hopes of bringing Jesus into theirs.
HOSPITALITY DOESN’T ALWAYS COME EASY
Practicing hospitality comes more naturally for some than others. There is a big difference between people who are extraverts and those who are introverts. An extravert will speak to everyone on an elevator; an introvert hopes that no one on the elevator says a word.
HOSPITALITY IS CHRIST-LIKE
Although it may not come natural for some to be engaging to strangers, Christian hospitality is a vital part of a believer’s new nature in Christ. Through the Holy Spirit, the very nature of Christ dwells in us, and He consistently engaged strangers and showed kindness to people others preferred to ignore. Even if we are introverts by nature, our new nature in Christ empowers us to be true ambassadors of Christ-like hospitality.
HOSPITALITY CAN OPEN CLOSED DOORS
As people called and committed to a life of discipleship, practicing Christian hospitality will open closed doors. We are always on the lookout for new people to disciple. Our life’s passion is built around a never-ending process of discipling a small group, multiplying some out, and finding a few more to disciple. This requires thinking ahead. By showing hospitality to a stranger today, it may open the door to invite him or her to join our D-Group tomorrow. Christian hospitality can become the open door for neighbors, classmates, work acquaintances, people we meet at the ballpark, and other public places to be those whom we have the joy of discipling and leading into a deeper relationship with Christ.
John Piper calls this “strategic hospitality.” Piper says, 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. 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. Don’t ever underestimate the power of your living room as a launching pad for new life and hope and ministry and mission!
HOSPITALITY CAN LEAD TO SALVATION
Sharing the Gospel with a stranger is always a good thing. However, it’s much more fruitful to build a relational bridge to a stranger through Christian hospitality and then seize an opportunity to share with him or her the great news of Christ. Sometimes we can engage the lost and unchurched in our D-Groups and lead them to salvation through the process of discipleship. At other times, we may lead them to Christ and then engage them in our D-Groups for continued discipleship. Regardless of the sequence, through Christian hospitality and living the D-Life we can enjoy a lifetime of making and multiplying disciples for the glory our Lord.
Whether introverted or extraverted, it doesn’t matter. If we will discipline ourselves to habitually practice the Christ-like quality of biblical hospitality, we can multiply new D-Groups again and again and never be in want of someone new to disciple.