Around Christmas, Christians celebrate the birth and life of Jesus, who was born in a manager and came to earth on a rescue mission to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). Recently I’ve been thinking about the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus and how it intersects with biblical hospitality. After Christmas of last year, a relative and her child came to live with my wife and me in our home. As I recently began to think about this subject, I thought about what biblical hospitality is and what it means.
In 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:8, Paul teaches that church leaders are to be hospitable. The word used by Paul for hospitality in 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:2 indicates a love for strangers. The ancient world was one where Christians were expected to be hospitable to one another. The roads in the ancient world were dangerous, so Christians were expected to feed strangers and provide them a safe place to live away from dirty and hazardous inns. Hospitality is a willingness to invite others into your home for a short or extended stay.
Hospitality Fosters Opportunities for Discipleship and Evangelism
Hospitality fosters an environment where Christians can model marriage, parenting, and a host of Christian character traits. Christians are not only to teach others the Bible, but they are also to model what it says, which is done by inviting people into our hearts and lives.
The teaching of Scripture is clear about Christians being hospitable. Peter in 1 Peter 4:9 says, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” Paul, in Romans 12:13, says, “Seek to show hospitality.” Hebrews 3:12 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Jesus taught us that we would be judged by our hospitality, for when we love and welcome others, we love and welcome Him (Matthew 25:35-40). Hardly anything is more characteristic of Christian love than hospitality.
Practicing hospitality has also provided an opportunity for evangelism as we’ve opened our home to my relative’s father, who isn’t a Christian. By doing so, we’ve provided a safe place he can stay on the couch in our living room for a few days so that he can visit his child. By my wife and I not holding a clenched fist on our house, we’ve opened our home to be an instrument to be used by the Lord for His glory.
The Incarnation and Hospitality
In the person of the Lord Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man became a stranger born in a manager. Jesus lived on earth in such a way as to depend on others by experiencing vulnerability and rejection as a stranger. The New Testament describes this in the following biblical passages:
- Luke 2:7: “They wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for him in the inn.”
- Luke 9:58: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
- As Jesus and His disciples traveled through Judea and Samaria, they were dependent on the hospitality of others (Matthew 10:11; Luke 10:5).
Christian Hospitality is Linked with the Grace of God
Jesus made a practice of eating with the lost and spending time with people who typically would have been excluded from fellowship. Jesus’ teaching on hospitality centers on welcoming those who have nothing to give in return. One example of this is Luke 14:12-14, which states:
12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
Jesus isn’t saying in Luke 14:12-14 that we invite those who can repay us into our homes but to invite the poor, needy, and those who are unable to pay us into our homes. Jesus, after all, welcomes sinners who stand as beggars before Him to the feast in His Kingdom.
To be hospitable requires generous hearts that understand the grace of the gospel. My wife and I didn’t have to welcome my relative and her child into our home, but we did so because we understand the gospel. As beggars before the infinite and holy God who created the cosmos, we know we deserve hell. In Christ, we know we are forgiven not because we deserve it but are saved by the amazing grace of God (Ephesians 2:8).
The Incarnation of Jesus is the Reason for the Season
At this time of year, we remember the Incarnation of Jesus, where Jesus came born in a manager knowing fully well that He came to die (Matthew 1:21). The death of Jesus forever and finally satisfies the wrath of God and secures our adoption in Christ alone (Romans 8:31-39; Ephesians 1).
As adopted children of God, we are fully loved, accepted, and beloved by Jesus. Now, as Christians during every season, we can be hospitable to others because Christ has been so merciful and generous with us.
As my wife and I have been hospitable to others, we are being faithful stewards of the resources the Lord has given us in our home. Practicing hospitality has helped me grow in my worship of the God of all grace, who has freely provided costly grace in His death and resurrection. Being generous isn’t part of life; it is all of life lived before His face as one of worship.