If you were asked to list biblical marks of a true Christian, what would your list look like? There are certain marks that should point to an inward conversion—one such mark is hospitality. If you were to talk to many Christians about the fruit of a believer, you would often hear about a love for the Bible, an affection for the local church, a passion to reach unbelievers with the gospel, the use of spiritual gifts within the local church, and a pursuit of holiness. Why is it that we often fail to see hospitality as a mark of true conversion? Consider the importance of Christian hospitality as revealed in the Scriptures.

Christian Hospitality Rooted in the Old Testament

When we read the Old Testament, we find that hospitality is rooted in the proper care and love for others. In Leviticus, according to the law of God, the people of Israel were to care for the sojourner in a specific manner.

Leviticus 19:33-34 – When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. [34] You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

We see this type of hospitality put on display when Abram entertains three guests, he hosts them and provides hospitality to them. We know the story—one of the guests was the Lord himself—a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ (Genesis 18). Hospitality was put on display likewise when Rahab protected the spies. She provided proper lodging and care for them (see Joshua 2). David and his men are the recipients of hospitality from Abigail (see 1 Samuel 25). We see a widow who was enduring massive hardship, and yet she provided hospitality for Elijah—not exactly the best of conditions for her to offer such care (see 1 Kings 17).

Christian Hospitality Essential for a Pastor’s Qualification

It should be no real shocker that when we come to the New Testament, in examining the qualifications for the men who are called to lead God’s Church—one of the qualifications is hospitality. In 1 Timothy 3:2, we see the word hospitable as a mark of qualification for the office of elder—interestingly enough it’s listed right before “able to teach” in the list. In other words, it’s very important.

The Greek term “φιλόξενος” translated hospitable carries the meaning of generosity and gracious treatment of guests—specifically in one’s own home. In other words, it’s not enough for pastors to welcome people into the context of their local church gathering—they must be willing to welcome such guests into their own home too. Generous care for people goes a long way in the work of gospel ministry. It requires a measure of sacrifice, love, and devotion to others. This is what God requires (not merely requests) from those who lead local churches.

Christian Hospitality Among God’s Church

One of the great commands of God’s people (from OT to NT) is the calling to love our neighbor. We see this repeated by Jesus when he was asked to name the greatest of the commandments. He responded:

“The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. [30] And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ [31] The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29–31).

The point is clear—if we have received the sacrificial love of Jesus, we are to demonstrate that by loving others. A selfless love of neighbor is required of God’s Church. How can we reach a lost world with the message of Jesus if we have a lack of love? One of the greatest ways to love your neighbor is to demonstrate hospitality to your neighbor. People who see a heart of love demonstrated by generosity and care will often be more willing to listen to your message of love.

Last of all, we see that God calls the Church to love one another. All through the New Testament we see the “one another” passages. We are called to assemble with one another, pray with one another, serve with one another, serve one another, and to love one another. In John 15:12, Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” It’s a requirement to show love for one another. Consider what Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom. 12:10). Paul wrote the following to the church in Galatia, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13).

In John’s letters, we see the following language, “For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (1 John 3:11). In a much more intense manner, John repeats this later by writing, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). The point that John is driving home is that if you do not love one another, you prove that you are not born of God (born again). In short, if you do not demonstrate Christian love toward one another—you are not a Christian.

At the heart of Christian love for one another is frequent hospitality. Consider the life of the early church as described in Acts 2:42-47. They were frequently in one another’s homes breaking bread together and engaging in Christian fellowship. Does this look like your lifestyle? Does this describe the life of your local church? Does your local church have less fellowship and hospitality than the local football team or recreational club in your town? If so, you should probably reconsider the high calling of Christian hospitality.

As marriage puts on display the covenant keeping love of Christ and his bride—the Church, so does hospitality put on display the lovingkindness of the gospel itself. We are called to be image bearers of the gospel as redeemed children of God.

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