Open Heart, Open Home

wordswag_1510227461172When I stepped into the home, I instantly felt a ‘welcome.’  It was not the décor or a fancy meal spread on the table.  The people knew the gift of hospitality. Their words and actions were in sync and said, “We’re glad you are here.” The evening passed quickly and I did not want to leave. They were warm and open, making me feel like a part of their family.

Christ’s church is called to be hospitable, like the home I just described. One of the strengths of the Christian community should be the warm acceptance that is found among us because of the overflowing love of God that fills us. We acknowledge that to be true, but do we live it? Are the strongest bonds in our lives made with those of ‘like precious faith’?

I cannot imagine life without my Christian family.  As a child, my second home was among the believers of our little church.  When I was a teenager, the place I found most safe was when I was with those who loved God.  I found my wife at church. She, like me, was a person who loved God’s people.  I have ‘done life’ with Christians, my efforts for the Kingdom of God multiplied by working with others who share the passion for God’s work.  Most recently, in my time of loss and sorrow, the family of faith has been my refuge.

Being hospitable is so much more than inviting someone over to dinner once. It is a way of life that is welcoming, loving, serving, connected.  Repeatedly, the Bible urges us to have open hearts towards others. Paul tells us to “Always be eager to practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:13).  He says that one of the basic qualities of a Christian leader is that “he must be hospitable.” (Titus 1:8)  Peter tells us to “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:9, NIV)

John wrote a little letter to one of the churches he led that was a commendation of a leader who was hospitable and a rebuke of one who was a ‘hospitality buster!’  The shortest book of the New Testament, 3 John is a reminder of the importance of sharing our lives with others, giving high priority to Christian fellowship.

To Gaius, he wrote: “Dear friend, when you extend hospitality to Christian brothers and sisters, even when they are strangers, you make the faith visible. They’ve made a full report back to the church here, a message about your love. It’s good work you’re doing, helping these travelers on their way, hospitality worthy of God himself!” (3 John 5-6, The Message)  Are you making faith visible – to your extended family, to your children, to the larger world – in the way that you love and welcome other Christians, doing life together, making those connections strong; being hospitable?

Another man in that same little church was rebuked this way. “Diotrephes, who loves being in charge, denigrates my counsel. If I come, you can be sure I’ll hold him to account for spreading vicious rumors about us. As if that weren’t bad enough, he not only refuses hospitality to traveling Christians but tries to stop others from welcoming them. Worse yet, instead of inviting them in he throws them out.” (3 John 9-10, The Message)   This local leader apparently had his own little cult of admirers and he was not going to let anyone in.  He had determined that it would be a closed club, exclusive, and unwelcoming. John does not give us much detail but we could infer that Diotrephes may have thought he was ‘protecting’ others by building walls. Whatever the reason, his failure to be welcoming, warm, and loving found a rebuke that has been read by millions of Christians through the ages!

I encourage you to get connected. Our busy lives do not make much room for fellowship with Believers unless we are intentional, unless we are willing to set aside some good things to pursue the best things, unless we are enveloped in the love of God that will make us loving people.

Rod Dreher observes “The first Christians gained converts not because their arguments were better than those of the pagans but because people saw in them and their communities, something good and beautiful — and they wanted it. This led them to the truth. Apologetics, then and now, has a limited role.” –  The Benedict Option   It is not our great sermons, our polished rational reasons for faith, that ultimately win the most people to Christ.  It is the quality of our love, the beautiful communities that the Spirit makes possible.  And, honestly, they are far too few in our time.

Our family lore tells me that my paternal grandfather accepted Christ as Savior as the result of the preaching of a young woman in a tent revival that was being held in their community a long time ago. But, it was the love of a little church that drew him into the community of faith. When he was in a terrible car accident that left him unable to work his farm for months, the little church he was a part of came together and took care of his farm and family. Those acts of hospitality cemented Grandpa’s faith in place, making it strong and life-long.  (His legacy is a powerful part of why I know Christ as my Savior today.)

Let’s renew our commitment to being hospitable, welcoming, warm, open-hearted people. Here is a word from the Word. “This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God. My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!” (1 John 4:9-12, The Message)

Lord, use it to transform our church into a beautiful fellowship of hospitable people, for the glory of Christ. Amen.

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