One of the marks of the early church was the hospitality shared among all believers as they opened up their homes and gave to one another as each had supply. I grew up in a very hospitable home where my parents were often inviting people over for a meal after church or during the week. Jesus told us that a mark of being filled with His Spirit would be hospitality. Hospitality is the idea of inviting people into your space to share with them what you have.
Today our society has changed a great deal from the times experienced by the early church. The society in our country is especially different because it is also the wealthiest nation in the world. Each person has so much in the way of material possessions that they often don’t need anyone else. One of the large industries in our nation is the business of storage – people paying additional money every month to keep their excess stuff in small garages. We are a nation of excess.
This also leads to a nation of isolation. When every person has everything they need, they have no need for any one else. Each person can retreat to their own home, to their own family, to their own refrigerator, to their own television and entertainment and cease to be near other people. Many people would never think of inviting others into their home because of how they might be judged.
The Holy Spirit through Paul reminds us of how important community is to the life of the believer. The verses in 2 Timothy 4:9-16 speak of those who strengthened Paul and were useful to his ministry. It was those that left and those that deserted him that brought pain. Yet in the Spirit’s control Paul said not to count it against them. He was simply urging Timothy to come soon and bring Mark because they would bring with them strength and comfort as Paul knew he was at the end of his life. May it not be said of any of us that we were left standing alone on the last day of our defense, and may we never leave anyone to stand alone on their last day. We need to learn to live in community.
We suffer today in a society that has been far removed from hospitality and the church is suffering from this condition as well. This closed-off mentality to joining with people in community can also spill over into our spiritual lives as we are less likely to open up our hearts to the Lord. God created us to live in community and He, as our example, has existed eternally in perfectly in community as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The community of God will also be the community of heaven where we as believers will exist forever. The community of heaven is…
- Unchanged – from eternity past and to eternity future the Triune Godhead will exist in perfect community. The believer who is saved by Jesus Christ will enter into this community of perfect hospitality and love the moment life on this earth has ended.
- Unstained – the community of heaven will have no sin whatsoever – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will only dwell in perfection, and we will be made like Christ in glory so that we too will live in an unstained community that is perfect, holy, just, righteous, and without blemish.
- Undeniable – even nature itself proclaims the glory of God and the existence of this community, we know that God has placed eternity in the hearts of men. Through the lives of believers God continues to make Himself known. God made Himself known through the early church through their hospitality and care for one another to such a degree that people were added to their numbers daily. This should be the desire of our church community.
We must be diligent in hospitality in order to build community. No one wants to be a part of a community of isolation – people are created for love, and the love of Christ is best shown through a church body that is living hospitably toward all people. We can live out the community of heaven here on earth now. Following the instructions of Jesus in Matthew 7:12-20 you must…
- Invite people to share in your life – AskJesus for opportunities to show hospitality to others. Matt 7:12-14 tell us to do unto others what we would have them do unto us. Often we are so filled with pride that we don’t want anyone to do anything for us, so in turn we don’t care to do anything for others. We must eliminate this pride from our lives – as Jesus tells us in vs 14 and 15 this is a hard way to live – the gate is very narrow. Will you enter through it?
- Luke 14:12 “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.”
- Include the fringe in your life – Seekby not giving up when you are denied after inviting – keep on being diligent to enter through the narrow gate. The fringe is not just those who live at a lesser state than you, it can also be those who live at a higher state of material wealth. We need to live in community with all people. This may include taking people into your home, feeding people meals, taking people when you run errands – whatever opportunities the Lord offers – be faithful to obey. Matt 7:15-20 tells us to beware of people like Alexander that Paul references in 2 Timothy 4:14 – you will be known by your fruits.
- Luke 14:13 “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,”
- Invest in those who will never pay you back – Knockby continuing to offer to give yourself away to others. The payment for living our the hospitality of Christ on earth is not going to be found here, but will be granted to you in the heavenly kingdom. Matt 7:19 – good trees bear good fruit, if you are not bearing fruit you are not a good tree.
- Luke 14:14 “and you will be blessed because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
We must become a church family that lives with hospitality at our core so that we will make Christ known to those who come into our midst. Hospitality will grow our intimacy with one another and will spread the love of Christ to the world so that many will be saved and we will not only grow in numbers but in depth with Jesus. This is why we exist.
Let’s build community together – invite someone today, include those you might normally overlook, and invest in ways that could never bring a return to you. You will become a blessing to someone like Timothy and Mark were to Paul in his last days. You will be entering through the narrow gate where the way is hard, but your reward will be eternal and you will come to know heavenly community while still living on this earth.
Serve Christ today – be hospitable.