1 John 3:16-18, “16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
Hospitality has been on my mind a lot lately. My wife and I recently finished and have been discussing Rosaria Butterfield’s new book, The Gospel Comes With a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post Christian World, and I had a conversation with some Christian brothers who observed the lack of hospitality in the local church.
Hospitality has been defined as the “generous and friendly (italics mine) reception of guests.” Additionally, it’s synonyms include, helpfulness, neighborliness, warmness, kindness, and generosity.
In our passage today, the Apostle John makes it clear that hospitality is a distinctly Christian practice. John states, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
Now certainly the word hospitality is not in our passage today, however, it is implicit in our passage. Most of us will never actually lay our lives down for others in the physical sense, but sharing what we have with others in a sacrificial way really does require us to die. We must die to our selfish desires. We must die to our personality make-up (I’m speaking to us, introverts!). We must die to living clean, un-cluttered, sanitized lives. This is the calling of every believer.
John is saying, ”Jesus laid down his actual life for us. How then, can we not care for our brothers and sisters in need?”
So, if we were to give hospitality a theologically informed definition alongside Webster’s helpful definition it may sound something like this:
Hospitality is a Christian’s response to Christ’s sacrificial death by which they die to self and express God’s love by warmly and generously providing for those in need.
This seems to be what John is getting at. And he isn’t making a suggestion. John is telling us that this is what Christians do. Hospitality is how Christians love.
Joey Tomlinson (DMin, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is a husband, father, and pastor at a local church in Newport News, Virginia. He blogs regularly on broadoakpiety.org and hosts a weekly podcast called The Broad Oak Piety Podcast with another local pastor in the community.