Theme: Positive Christianity
By Bill Moseley
What you gain! Most folks are interested in personal gain, and within proper limits this is not all bad. Jesus Himself spoke of the “reward motive” for His disciples being what they should be. He said that men who prayed as they ought and who gave alms and fasted out of proper motives would be rewarded (Matthew 6:4,6,18). This is the nature of hospitality. It carries reward with it, for the hospitable person really gains more than the one who is the object of his goodness. “It is more blessed to give than to receive” are the words attributed by Paul to Jesus (Acts 20:35). No one knows this more than the Christian who gladly and without complaint opens his hand, his heart and his home to others.
Hospitality is “giving or affording a generous welcome to guests or strangers with liberality and kindness” (New Century Dictionary). l am particularly impressed with the New Testament word for hospitality, philoxenia. It is “love to strangers” (W. E. Vine). Most of us have no problem with hospitality toward those we know, but the New Testament definition is quite another matter.
l well remember “suffering” upon one occasion because my wife knew what philoxenia was. Coming home one evening, l asked my usual question (generally to her chagrin), “What’s for supper?” Her reply was to the point: “I don’t know. I gave your supper to some people who said they needed it!” And so she had! Whether these folks were legitimately in need or not I will never know — God will be the judge. After my feelings of self-pity subsided I realized that whether their need was real or not, I was the one who had really gained, for I had just received the approbation of God for doing a deed of kindness to others-and I never knew the people!
Peter said, “Use hospitality without grudging” (1 Peter 4:9). This tells, in a negative way, how hospitality is to be practiced. When done out of compulsion or feelings of “repayment,”hospitality loses its real meaning. Jesus said it was not to be practiced with the only motive being a hope of reciprocation (Luke 14:12-14). Real hospitality lies not only in giving others something to eat and a place to stay for the night. They can get that at Burger King and the local Motel 6! Emerson once said: “Certainly let the board be spread and let the bed be dressed for the traveler; but let not the emphasis of hospitality lie in these things.” When out of a cheerful heart, out of a generous and hearty spirit one is hospitable-he has gained much for himself.
Consider some practical suggestions. Look around next Sunday and see if there are visitors at worship services. Offer to take them home with you for the time-honored “Sunday dinner.” Oh sure, it will mean Mom will have to improvise and put the proverbial “extra bean in the pot” and Dad will have to forego that football game he had planned to watch. But you may well have gained friends that you would never have acquired otherwise. Your association, your talking of spiritual things, will send you back to the evening service with more zeal than you might imagine.
How about inviting some into your home with whom you do not normally spend time? You may decide you enjoy them and will have found new associates, although you have “known them” for years. We all must guard against being cliquish. Family ties are strong and they are good. But there is a danger here. Many families are so clannish they will only visit with other family members. This is not good, as it tends to encapsulate whole families in an apparent atmosphere of aloofness to others.
There are congregational benefits to be derived from Christians interacting on a social basis. Our faith in spiritual matters may well be enhanced as those who have banded together in a common cause for Christ also spend some time together socially. Did not the early church “eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart” (Acts Z:46)? Did not Paul tacitly teach this when he said the Corinthians had “houses to eat and drink in” (1 Corinthians 11;22)? Certainly this is not the major thrust of his question, but a secondary lesson can be learned by it.
Selfishness ~ a desire to be isolated —is not conducive to a productive and happy life. Blessed is the person or family who enjoys the company of old friends and new acquaintances. Such is a mark of those who fear God. The prophet said: “Then they that feared the Lord spake often to one another; and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name” (Malachi 3:16). Did you get that? God-fearing people spoke often to one another; they were not isolated in their own little world. And the ultimate benefit is there—they are in the Lord’s book of remembrance.
CHRISTIANITY MAGAZINE JANUARY, 1984