Open Hearts, Open Homes

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Romans 12:9-13

INTRODUCTION: Our message series is called Christian Home Fixer Upper, and we have been looking at what the Bible says about Christian home and family. We started this series back on Mother’s Day and since then we have looked at Christian marriage, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, singles and children, as well as the issue of spiritual mismatch in the home. Today is the last message in the series, and I wanted to close things out today by talking about Christian hospitality. What is Christian hospitality and why should we practice it? (Read Romans 12:9-13 and pray)

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We have been talking about Christian Home Fixer Upper and the importance of God’s design for a Christian home. This morning a I want us to see another reason why this is so important. Of course it’s important for our own relationships within the home and it’s important to follow God’s instructions in order that we may please him, but there is another reason why God wants us to fix up our homes and that is so we may provide Christian hospitality.

When we work on Christian Home Fixer Upper, we don’t do it just for ourselves. Rather, we fix up our homes so that we may share them with others. Jesus said, “To whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48), and so if God has blessed you with a Christian home, you have a responsibility to share that with others. Just as you are not saved for yourself but in order to serve others, so also if God has given you the blessing of a Christian home, he wants you to use it to be a blessing to others.

The passage we just read from Romans 12 is a passage about Christian love, and one of the ways Romans 12 says we show God’s love is by practicing Christian hospitality. Romans 12:13 in particular says: “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:13) That word translated “practice” in verse 13 is a strong word in the original language which actually means “to pursue.” In other words, we should not only practice hospitality, we should pursue it. Like one person chasing another, we should run hard after hospitality; we should eagerly seek it; we should work hard to make hospitality a meaningful part of our lives.

Think about that for a minute. God commands us to pursue hospitality. Now hospitality was an important part of the culture in Biblical times, but for the Christian hospitality is not simply a cultural responsibility but also a spiritual responsibility. It is an extension of the love God has shown us in Jesus Christ. We have a spiritual responsibility to open up our hearts and our homes to other people.

This morning I want to share with you five reasons why we should practice Christian hospitality, and then I’m going to give you ten very practical ways you can practice Christian hospitality in your own home. But first, the five reasons why we should practice Christian hospitality.

I. Christian hospitality blesses other people.
   – Luke 14:12-14; Hebrews 13:1-2

The first reason is very simple. We should practice Christian hospitality because it blesses other people, and once again, God calls you to be a blessing. Jesus said in Luke 14: “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14) In other words hospitality is about what you can give to others, not about what you can get in return.

Hebrews 13 says: “Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:1-2) That word “entertain” doesn’t mean to tell jokes or to sing a song or to amuse somebody; rather it means to provide lodging or to receive someone as a guest – in other words, to provide hospitality. Hebrews says some people who have helped strangers in this way may have actually helped angels without knowing it. Now I’m sure many of us have entertained angels in the sense that we have amused them with our various antics – I’m sure there are plenty of angels who laugh at me every day – but here the Bible is just talking about blessing others with our hospitality. The first reason why you should practice hospitality is that Christian hospitality blesses other people. And you should do it without any thought of how they can repay you.

II. Christian hospitality strengthens Christian community.
   – Romans 12:13

A second reason to practice Christian hospitality is because it strengthens Christian community. Going back to Romans 12:13 we read: “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:13) Now we should practice hospitality towards all people, whether they are Christian or not. In fact the Greek word translated “hospitality” in the New Testament literally means, “love of strangers.”

But even though we should practice hospitality towards all people, God’s word especially singles out hospitality to other believers. Romans 12:13 says: “Share with God’s people who are in need.” God’s people are singled out because as Christians we are family. And family is supposed to take care of each other. It’s important to take care of others as well, but it would be wrong to neglect your family while taking care of others. And as Christians we are family.

God calls us as Christians to live in community with each other. In fact it is our special love for each other as Christians that presents a witness to the world that Jesus really is who he said he was. Charity begins at home, and Christian hospitality begins at home too. It begins with the family of God. When you have other Christians over your home and they have you over their home, we grow together in community. And so the second reason why you should practice Christian hospitality is because it strengthens Christian community.

III. Christian hospitality opens doors for the gospel.
   – 1 Thessalonians 2:8

A third reason is because Christian hospitality opens doors for the gospel. We see this in 1 Thessalonians 2 when Paul writes to the Thessalonians: “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” (1 Thessalonians 2:8) Paul and his friends didn’t just share the gospel with the Thessalonians. They did share the gospel, but they also shared their lives with them.

The most effective evangelism is when a Christian shares about Jesus with a friend. And one of the best ways to build friendships with other people is to share a meal with them or to have them over to your home. People get to know you better when they spend time in your home, and one of the reasons God wants us to work on Christian Home Fixer Upper is so that our homes can be lights in the community, shining the light and love of Jesus Christ to our neighbors and friends.

So yes, Christian hospitality begins with the people of God. But it should never end there. We need to look for ways to extend hospitality to those who do not know Christ yet. And who knows? Perhaps through your friendship, God will bring that person to know Jesus Christ as their savior. That’s a third reason why we should practice Christian hospitality. Christian hospitality opens doors for the gospel.

IV. Christian hospitality reflects God’s love for us.
   – Psalm 23:5-6

The fourth reason is this: Christian hospitality reflects God’s love for us. Now the first three reasons we’ve looked at this morning were more on the practical side. These last two reasons are more theological in nature, but just as important. The fourth reason we should practice Christian hospitality is because Christian hospitality reflects God’s love for us. We read the following words in Psalm 23: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:5-6)

Psalm 23 begins with the words, “The Lord is my shepherd,” and ends with these beautiful words about God inviting us into his own home. God himself prepares a table for you. He anoints your head with oil, a common act of courtesy in Biblical times, similar to offering someone a drink of water when you welcome them into your home today. He provides for you abundantly, symbolized by the cup overflowing. God welcomes you into his home, he treats you as an honored guest, and he tends to your needs.

Of course God’s love goes beyond just temporary hospitality and common courtesy. God not only invites you into his house as a guest, but he then invites you to stay as family. And so David ends the Psalm by saying: “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

In the New Testament this becomes an even more beautiful picture because we find that the table God invites us to is the table of his own Son, where Christ’s body was broken for you and his blood was shed for your sins. If anyone ever pursued hospitality, it was God who sent his Son to seek and to save that which was lost.

We are called to be imitators of God, and so because God invites us into his home, we should invite others into our homes as well. That’s our fourth reason this morning: Christian hospitality reflects God’s love for us.

V. Christian hospitality reflects our love for Jesus.
   – Matthew 25:34-40

And then the fifth reason is this. Not only does Christian hospitality reflect God’s love for us, it also reflects our love for Jesus. Listen to these words of Jesus from Matthew 25:

“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. 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, 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.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:34-40)

Christian hospitality not only reflects God’s love for us. It also reflects our love for Jesus. When you feed the hungry, when you help the thirsty, when you welcome the stranger or clothe the needy, yes, you are helping other people, but you are also showing your love for Jesus as well.

Why should we practice Christian hospitality? 1) Christian hospitality blesses other people. 2) Christian hospitality strengthens Christian community. 3) Christian hospitality opens doors for the gospel. 4) Christian hospitality reflects God’s love for us. And 5) Christian hospitality reflects our love for Jesus.

CONCLUSION: So we’ve looked at some reasons why you should practice Christian hospitality. I would like to close now by sharing with you briefly ten practical ways you can practice Christian hospitality in your own home. You probably won’t do all of these, although I hope you will do some. Depending on your personality or life season, you will probably gravitate towards certain items on the list more than others. As I went through the list, I found that Rosi and I have done all of these except the last two on the list. Also, please keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list. There are certainly other ways to practice hospitality as well, but the purpose of this list is just to give you some ideas and help you get started.

1) Offer special meals: First of all, you can offer a special meal in your home. Invite one or more people over, pull out your best china, cook up a special meal and make them feel like royalty. Special meals are a great way to offer hospitality.

2) Offer ordinary meals: Special meals are great when you can do them, but if we limited our hospitality to only when we have the time and resources to do something special, then we will miss out on many other opportunities for hospitality in the home. So invite people over for ordinary meals, too. Use paper plates. Cook up hot dogs on the grill or put out some bread and cold cuts and have people make sandwiches. Order a pizza. The nice thing about ordinary meals is you can be spontaneous. Invite someone over after church on a Sunday. It doesn’t have to be fancy. As Jesus said, even a cup of cold water will do. It’s a beautiful thing when we invite someone over to our home as a special guest for a special meal. But it is also a beautiful thing when we welcome someone into our home as family for an ordinary meal.

3) Host a small group or Bible study in your home: Another great way to practice hospitality is by hosting a small group or Bible study in your home. You don’t have to actually lead the group, someone else can always do the leading, but just hosting the group in your home is a great way to show hospitality.

4) Let your kids’ friends hang out at your house: If you have kids, let your kids’ friends hang out at your house. It’s a great way to get to know your kids’ friends, it’s a great way to reach out to other families, and it’s a great way to provide a safe place for them. Wouldn’t it be great for both your kids and their friends to have a Christian home to hang out in?

5) Have people over to watch a movie or game: Do you like watching movies or sports games? Well then probably other people do too. Invite someone over to watch with you.

6) Host a missionary for lodging or a meal: From time to time we have visiting missionaries who need a place to stay or meals to eat. Hosting a missionary in your home is not only a wonderful way to practice hospitality, you will also be blessed as you learn more about them personally and more about their work on the field.

7) Provide temporary housing during a crisis: Sometimes an individual or family will have a crisis where they need emergency housing. A number of people in our church family have helped others out in these situations by sharing their homes and providing temporary housing.

8) Host an international student: Jesus said to go into all the world to share the gospel. Well, right now we have an amazing opportunity as God is bringing people from all over the world into the United States in the form of international students. We have a lot of colleges in our area. Consider hosting an international student as a way of sharing your Christian home with another.

9) Provide foster care: As we showed you on the video earlier in the service there is a great need for foster care in our community. Ask God whether he might be calling you to open up your heart and your home in this way.

10) Adoption: And then finally, there is adoption. This is a deep act of hospitality that mirrors God’s love for us in adopting us into his own family. When you adopt a child you welcome them into your heart and your home forever.

So those are ten practical ways you can practice hospitality in your own homes. Once again, this list is just to get you started. There are many other ways as well. God may not call you to do all ten on the list, but he does call you to practice hospitality, he calls you to pursue hospitality, so that’s the question I will leave you with this morning. How will you pursue hospitality in your life? Remember, Christian Home Fixer Upper is not meant just to fix up our homes for ourselves. But God calls us to open our hearts and our homes to others as well.

© Ray Fowler

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