Hospitality is something we do. It consists of various acts of kindness and practical expressions of love. But it’s more than that. Hospitality is a heart issue.
We are given several admonitions in these few short verses in I Peter 4:7-11. Among them is the call to “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” (Verse 9).
In the Greek, hospitality is “philo oxenia.” Literally, “love of strangers.” What comes to mind when you think of a “stranger?” Someone you don’t know or have never met? Maybe. But I find it somewhat interesting that in this particular context the apostle Peter is referring to the way Christians are to relate to each other. At first we might not think that meets the definition of “stranger.” But of course he uses this particular term on purpose.
There are varied levels of “strangers,” I suppose. But essentially, a stranger is a person for whom connecting with him may require extending ourselves beyond our comfort zone. I think this part of the idea Peter is getting at. Hospitality involves relating to others in ways that may stretch us a bit beyond what we are comfortable with.
This meaning is accentuated by the follow-up admonition—“without complaint!” I want to be careful not to make more of this than is intended, but I do find it interesting that he doesn’t say, “Don’t practice hospitality unless you can do it without complaining!” He says, “Do it!” and “don’t complain about it!”
Practicing hospitality requires commitment; and commitment requires investment; and investment requires selflessness. But here is the other part of what Peter is getting at here: We do not practice hospitality primarily for our own sake, but for the sake of others. This is the heart of hospitality.
That doesn’t mean that showing hospitality has to feel as if we’re walking into the wind. In fact, it is often the case that we find joy as we venture into unfamiliar territory with another, and it will inevitably yield many blessings for ourselves. Hebrews 13:2 reads, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” How many blessings and divine appointments we forgo when we neglect the ministry of hospitality.
But when we show hospitality for our sake we usually miss the blessing. When it’s primarily for the sake of “the other,” we open ourselves up to the blessings of God.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, as you have welcomed me, may I welcome others.