Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Friends @ Home - Hospitality

Friends @Home : A Study on hospitality
This is an extract from a set of Bible Studies I had written for women a few years ago. I do hope you will be blessed as you read and ponder on this. Much of the material here has also been taken from a sermon my husband, Colin, preached a few years back.

A few days ago I came across an article in the newspaper that spoke of a modern trend amongst the “yuppy crowd” of our cities – that of no longer offer hospitality in their homes but prefer entertaining people in restaurants to avoid the “mess and work and clear up” that is involved when you have friends over. I mulled over this article and thought to myself about how much we are moving away from anything that disturbs our comforts zone and anything that we see as threatening our private space. What should the Christian response be? Am I against eating out, or talking friends out for a meal? Far from it. But when there is a trend that does not want to have people in our homes because it is seen as being a pain rather than a blessing, I think we need to go back to the plumb line and adjust our thinking: the plumb line is the word of God.

As a home maker what should my attitude be toward hospitality, toward having people over? 
One of the functions of a God glorifying home of Christians is providing Hospitality.  

Q. Are we willing to open up our homes to hospitality? When our husbands want us to have people over for tea, or a meal are we reluctant or responsive?
Hospitality is a practice that God has honoured and commanded.
Rom 12:13 “Practice hospitality, practice hospitality”.
Gen 18:3 “Let me get you something to eat so you can be refreshed..”
Prov 11:25 “He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed”
What was Jesus’ attitude to such mundane things as a home and food?
Mark 6:37-But he answered, “you give them something to eat”
 Mark 14:3-“ While  he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper..”

What was the early church like?
Acts 2:46- “They broke bread in their homes.”
In 1 Tim 3:1-7 Paul lists the qualification of elders and church pastors.
“. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, and able to teach…”
In 1 Tim 5:9, 10 Paul lists out the character qualities of a godly widow who is eligible to be put on the widow’s list and being hospitable is one of them.
In 1 Pet 4:7-9 Peter begins by saying “7The end of all things is near. 9Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others.”

The word hospitality is “philo xenos”. We know that philo is one of the greek words for “love”.
What does “xenos” mean? We get our English word “xenophobia” from it. – Fear of strangers.
Xenos is greek for “stranger”
So “philoxenos” is literally a lover of strangers.

There are several examples of people who excelled in hospitality in the early church viz Martha, Peter’s mother in law, Aquilla and Priscilla, Lydia to name a few.

Q. Is hospitality the same as entertaining?
In hospitality, the focus is on the fellowship and not on food. It is about keeping an open home where people feel welcomed. It may be that all you offer is a cup of tea or a light snack, or a simple “Dal and rice” for a meal. When you do this your home becomes a beacon for the Lord.  Keeping the meal simple  helps not to put a strain on ones finances and then one can do it more often than one large banquet done once a year. If you put up a big meal, people may feel fearful about inviting you over as they feel they may not be able to meet your standard. Also don’t busy yourself in the kitchen preparing or clearing up that your friends are left to entertain themselves with you absent most of the time.

Q. Who can be hospitable? ANYONE. You don’t need to be married or own a big home in order to be hospitable. Our experience has been the ones with small homes and incomes have been the most hospitable. I know a family of 5 that lived in a one room and kitchen home but had more people in their home for a meal than most people I know.

Q.What are some of the ways a single person can be hospitable? What about bachelors or spinsters?
We should aim to make hospitality a lifestyle and a family affair. Involve the children and get them excited about the prospect of having visitors over. In doing so you will train your children to be outgoing and friendly and welcoming to people who visit your home.

To be sure, every family needs privacy. However, today the trend is towards individualism and self comfort. This is not biblical. Many people, even Christians want to live in luxury and to live undisturbed by anyone. They offer no invitation to others and will not take the trouble to cook even a simple meal for someone.

Hospitality is one of the ways love is demonstrated amongst believers and members of a church, especially toward new comers to the church. Statistics show that if a new person makes 5-7 friends in a church, he/she is more likely to stay on.

If you find yourself struggling in this area ask the Holy Spirit to help you. Ask Him to pour love in your heart for your brothers and sisters in the Lord. All our acts of service should be motivated by faith and love or else they will be a dead works for which there is no reward.
Take some practical steps to help you get into a new groove. Call up people and fix a date for when you can have them over. This ensures commitment on your part and theirs rather than leaving it vague and to chance.
Q. Think for a moment about your own attitude toward hospitality-
 Are you open to having people in your home or are you reluctant and see them as an intrusion?

Q. When was the last time you had people from the church over to your home for a meal?

Q. Do you find hospitality difficult? If so, what are the factors that are hindering you and how can you overcome them?

Q. Spend a minute to consider who you can invite to your home in the next month and write down some names here. Then make it a point to call them up within the next few days after you have discussed it with your husband ( if your are married).

Hebrews 13 urges us to follow the example of the ancients who emphasized hospitality and because of it sometimes unknowingly welcomed angels into their homes. The reference is undoubtedly to Abraham and Lot entertaining strangers and later discovering them to be angels (Gen 18).

Q. Who do you invite to your home ? Be careful of only inviting “your type” of people viz ethnic group, language group, economic status, marital status etc. We are encouraged to be hospitable to all.

Remember what Jesus says: In Mt 25:31 onwards -31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.34 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

So with these thoughts in mind let us motivate ourselves to becoming more hospitable.. Jesus offers a kingdom to those who have been hospitable.  Wow – what a reward!

 Navaz D Cruz

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