See others through the lens of eternity where no one is an interruption and people are a blessing.
by Philip Nation
I normally dread the idea of seeing a particular sign in my neighborhood. OPEN HOUSE. With obnoxiously large letters, it announces to the world that everyone is welcome on our street. The results are a few hours of a clogged up neighborhood with cars parked on both sides of the street and strangers trudging through our yard.
Of course, I’m usually irritated only because I wanted to snoop around the house as well so I could ensure that mine will sell for more. The idea of an Open House is fine as long as no one else shows up. I need to look at the house and don’t need all of those people getting in my way.
And herein lies the need for a lesson. People should be welcomed, not seen as a disruption.
The Christian life is one built on redemptive relationships. Our relationship with God is broken, so He sends Jesus to mend it by His death and resurrection. Relationships between believers constantly need help to be refreshed. Just look at the apostles, early church, and even Paul and Peter, if you need examples. They needed help and so do we. On top of all of that, Christians should be great ambassadors to those who are still lost instead of the mere protesters against culture. Too often, we view our lost neighbors as annoyances and people in other countries as our enemies. We need a change. Let’s start seeing others through the lens of eternity where no one is an interruption and people are a blessing. No lost person is an enemy but a slave to their sin. It’s why we need to be ready for an open house lifestyle.
The Bible is a story of hospitality. God creates a home for Adam and Eve in Genesis. He has prepared a new home for us in Revelation. Everything between those biblical bookends consistently reveals God’s heart for welcoming home the straggler, the stranger, and the struggler. Christian hospitality should drive us to do the same. When fellowship is more than church socials, then we are following Paul’s directive to “pursue hospitality” (Romans 12:13).
When we go for the lowest common denominator, fellowship is just the church hanging out together. Hospitality can be so much more than the quasi-spiritual gift of casseroling each other. We must pursue those who are lonely. We should seek out those with no hope. Hospitality is done with the memory that I was once the stranger and someone invited me into his or her life.
Both the Old Testament and the New Testament are filled with teachings and descriptions of hospitality shown by the people of God. Two examples are found in Leviticus and the Gospel of Luke.
In the Law recorded in Leviticus, God instructed the Hebrew people about hospitality. “You must regard the foreigner who lives with you as the native-born among you. You are to love him as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt; I am Yahweh your God” (Leviticus 19:34). The spiritual implication is deep. Once enslaved as foreigners inside of an evil empire, the Israelites were freed by God. Now, as the insiders to the Kingdom of God, they are instructed to welcome in those who they were once like. When you remember how your life was once lived as an outsider, then it’s easier to include someone who feels like an outcast.
Luke’s Gospel tells the story of a Pharisee that invited Jesus to dinner at his home. While there, a sinful woman came in and washed Jesus’ feet with precious ointment (see Luke 7:36- 50). The Pharisee was offended that Jesus would let the woman touch Him. Jesus was more greatly offended that he was so dull. The Pharisees didn’t want to show hospitality to a sinful woman but Jesus allowed a space for her. Hospitality is going to be messy, so be ready for what might happen because of it.
Pride, busyness, selfishness, and fear will all dissuade you from showing hospitality. I hope that you will instead look at the exhausted single mother that needs a break. Find the hurting teen that needs a listening ear. Seek out the immigrant needing a friend. Let the new family in the neighborhood know that they are welcomed. Take the widows and widowers into your circle of friendship like they truly matter. The antidote to all of our selfish sins of hiding out from the world is to imitate the radical generosity of Jesus. Hospitality becomes a missional discipline when we welcome strangers into our home so they can see a reflection of grace alive in us.
Now that we are insiders, let’s go get the outsiders. All around us, people are asking a simple question that scares them to answer honestly: “Do I fit in here?” By Christ’s grace, the answer can be yes. But they don’t know it until you invite them into your life for friendship that goes beyond the surface tension conversations about the latest movie. Hospitality isn’t just feeding someone from your table. Hospitality invites them into your life.
Philip Nation is the pastor of First Baptist Church, Bradenton, Florida.. His latest book, Habits for Our Holiness, offers a guide to engage with the spiritual disciplines that lead us to deeper relationships with one another and active engagement with God’s mission. Find out more at PhilipNation.net.
This article originally appeared in HomeLife magazine (March 2016). For more articles like this, subscribe to HomeLife.