What does an authentic Christian spirituality look like?
Recently I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the Biblical commands concerning hospitality. To my surprise, I discovered that it is a major Biblical theme and an important part of what it means to follow Christ. We’re called to love our neighbors, and that means showing them hospitality. And yet, I haven’t heard or read much teaching about hospitality.
Jesus shows us the importance of hospitality, but maybe not for the reason you think.
In a blog arguing for the importance of hospitality, an author made this statement:
When I think about Jesus, one of the aspects about Him I am continually astounded by is how much of a servant he was during his time on earth. And specifically, how hospitable he was. He was constantly serving others, healing others, and engaging people where they needed help the very most (emphasis added).
I read that and thought, “That is wrong.” Yes, Jesus did miracles, and healed the sick, and talked to a wide range of outcasts and untouchables, but those were acts of love and kindness, and not really acts of hospitality.
In fact, for most of His ministry, Jesus was not in a position to show hospitality to others. After all, He was an itinerant preacher who didn’t have a home to invite people to:
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9:58).
Nevertheless, Jesus does show us why hospitality is important. He does that, not so much by giving it, as by receiving it.
In His ministry, the Lord often (consistently?) depended on people’s hospitality. And He used those occasions to do ministry.
For example, think of Zacchaeus, the famously short tax collector from Jericho. When Jesus was passing through town, He invited Himself over to Zacchaeus’ house:
“Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house” (Luke 19:5).
While Zacchaeus joyfully accepted the Lord’s invitation, it upset the crowds, who thought Jesus should not accept a sinner’s hospitality (Luke 19:7). But that is precisely whom Jesus came “to seek and to save”—people like Zacchaeus (and you and me). And, as a result of that act of hospitality, Zacchaeus was saved (Luke 19:9).
Apparently, Jesus stayed with Zacchaeus but once. But He also stayed at Peter’s house in Capernaum on a more regular basis (Matthew 8:14-17). That may have been Jesus’ “home base.” Not only did it become a place where Jesus could disciple Peter, but it also gave an opportunity for Jesus to heal Peter’s mother-in-law.
Or think of how Jesus stayed with Mary and Martha on multiple occasions (Luke 10:38-42), eventually leading to the Lord’s raising their brother Lazarus from the dead.
And do you remember what Jesus said in Matt 25:31-46 about those who will living through the Tribulation? Dispensationalists refer to it as the Judgment of the Sheep and the Goats. There Jesus emphasized the importance of hospitality and the connection between taking others in and taking Him in:
“And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for…I was a stranger and you took Me in…”
Upon hearing that, the people will be perplexed. They never literally took Jesus in. So what is the King talking about?
“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying…‘When did we see You a stranger and take You in…?’”
When would the Tribulation survivors have ever taken Jesus in, and given Him food and water? The Lord explains:
“And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’”
The Lord will regard showing hospitality to others as showing hospitality to Him.
Contextually, Jesus was teaching specifically about Gentile Tribulation survivors showing hospitality to Jewish believers during that time. However, I wonder if the Lord will regard all hospitality show to others as hospitality shown to Himself?
At the very least, this is another clear example of the very high value Jesus places on hospitality.
In sum, Jesus demonstrates the importance of hospitality, not so much in how He gave it, but in how He received it. Receiving hospitality was a central aspect of His ministry. It not only showed His love for the people from whom He accepted hospitality, but it also became the venue for His ministering to others, through teaching, healing, and discipleship.
Have you ever thought that inviting people into your home is a ministry to Jesus Himself? Or have you ever thought of it as a place where Jesus can minister to others through you?