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New Testament Hospitality

The Bible commands us to be hospitable in several places (particlulary elders), and I have always assumed I knew what that meant.  You know, have people over for dinner, put visiting missionaries up overnight, things like that.  But in the NT context, I’m not sure I’ve seen it correctly. 

First, The origin in Greek is “stranger.”  In other words, the word developed literally as “for a stranger.”  I think of hospitality as people I know, or that I know through someone else – such as a missionary.  But the NT command for hospitality is aimed at strangers (particularly Heb. 13:2). 

Second, hospitality is how the Gospel was spread in the first century.  Therefore, while evangelists traveled from place to place, they would stay in church members home for long periods.  Obviously, they couldn’t afford an inn.  Therefore, hospitality was an act of great personal sacrifice for a first century Christian as they had someone in their small homes for a long period.  That would put stress on me!  I like my privacy!!

Third, they had little in the way of resources, and had to share what they had in order for the Gospel to be spread.  The churches in Asia Minor, to whom Peter wrote, also were suffering economic hardship.  To have an extra mouth to feed was a tremendous burdent to them.

It seems that in our modern context, hospitality is more than just having people over for dinner (although it is certainly that, too).  It is a way of life that involves sacrifice for the spread of the gospel.  It involves money and resources and time.  In our modern context, we need to stretch our thinking on hospitality to move beyond simply having people in our home. 

There are a lot of opportunities to have strangers in our homes with the number of students from overseas who attend the local university.  That would involve a sacrifice of time on our part.  We may even need to have one live with us for the sake of the gospel.

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  1. Fred Gerhardt
    March 13, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    Excellent thoughts. This type of hospitality (to strangers) can have some real missional impact. Who knows who we may meet in our hospitality gestures and what the Holy Spirit will do through it. We need to look for opportunities to do random acts of kindness and hospitality

  2. jlemke
    March 14, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    I hadn’t thought about it as missional, Fred. That’s a good insight.

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