When the doorbell rings before Thanksgiving lunch or Christmas Eve dinner, you’ll know just what to do: Fluff your apron, don that winning smile, open the door, and say, “Come on in!”
After all, it’s the holiday season. You’ve extended invitations, planned the menu, and decorated your home. You are ready to be hospitable.
The only question we have is this: Do you know what that really means?
Let’s take a look at what the Bible says about hospitality. If you’re like us, the truth of this word just might rock your holiday world.
In 1 Peter 4:8-11, the Bible says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised.”
In Peter’s time, life was a little different than what you and I experience today.
Has this happened to you? Your doorbell rings, it’s Christmas morning, and a stranger stands on your stoop. He says, “Hi! My name is Matt. Can I eat your food and sleep in your bed?”
Um, no. Go away.
It’s weird, right? But in the early church, these kinds of intrusions were common. The poor had nowhere to go and believers traveled great distances to avoid persecution. And so Christians took them in.
These Christians weren’t necessarily well-off themselves. And they weren’t protected from danger either. They may not have had much to give, but they opened their homes anyway. It makes sense that Peter would have to say “don’t complain” because isn’t that exactly what you’d want to do?
Nowadays we typically do the inviting and we definitely know—or at least know of—our guests. For most of us, hosting is a happy thing. And hospitality, well, that’s just another way of saying use good manners. Be polite, smile at your guests, and pass the bread. . . .
But when we read Peter’s words, we see that hospitality is more than manners—hospitality is ministry.
So what does that look like for you today?
1. Open your home to strangers.
Your dinner table may be overflowing as it is, but see if you can squeeze in an extra chair or two. Everyone knows the holidays can be an especially painful time for people. This year, do something about it. If you’re already expecting strangers, welcome them warmly. Decide ahead of time that showing love is more important than passing judgment.
Questions to consider: Who can I invite to my home this holiday season? How will I treat them?
Words to remember: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
2. Be truly cheerful.
In some translations of this verse, Peter encourages believers to “cheerfully share their homes.” You may be a happy host, but are you a cheerful one? Believe it or not, there’s a difference! A happy person feels happiness. A cheerful person causes happiness.
Question to consider: What can I do to facilitate joy in others for the brief time I have them in my home?
Words to remember: “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
3. Use your gifts to serve.
Hosting and serving go together. You bake the turkey, pour the drinks, and slice the pie. To some degree, this is expected and normal. What’s not normal is for a host to truly serve—to look for the needs in others and the gifts in themselves and find even a small way to help.
Question to consider: How can I use my unique gifts and resources to bless my guests?
Words to remember: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
4. Give God glory.
When family, friends and strangers enter your home, it’s an opportunity for them to see Christ in you. You never know what’s going on behind the scenes in people’s lives or how much an encounter like this might mean to them. So when you welcome and serve your guests, remember that your ultimate goal is to give God glory.
Question to consider: How can I prepare to entertain my guests as an example of Christ?
Words to remember: “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised.”
True hospitality really is more than manners. True hospitality is ministry.