Since there are almost 7 billion people on this planet and about 440,000 in Virginia Beach alone, why do we find so many people who would confess to being lonely? We are surrounded by people, so many sometimes that it feels like all 7 billion are on our doorstep or our streets at any one time. With so many people around us, how could any of us possibly be lonely?
One of the reasons is that we have forgotten about hospitality. Hospitality signifies a welcoming, whether it be of friends or strangers. Americans, in particular, have been overcome by individualism, where we are consumed with me. No matter what our relationships, marriage, family, workplace, neighborhood, or the cashier at WalMart, it’s all about me. It’s my convenience, my comfort, my castle. So to open my home to others, or to share a meal, or to offer a ride to a neighbor, any of these things would inconvenience me, it would cause me discomfort. After all, my home is my castle. My moat is in place, the drawbridge is up, and I just wnat to be left alone. And when I am left alone, I find that I am lonely.
The apostle Peter tells us to “be hospitable to one another without grumbling” (I Peter 4:9). The word translated hospitable means love of guests or love of strangers. In our relationships in the church, we are to love sharing what we have with others. Whether it be a meal or a bed for the night, we are to share what we have with others, without grumbling.
Hospitality is so important that in both I Timothy and Titus, the apostle Paul lists hospitality as a requirement for church leadership. In I Timothy 3:2, Paul says that “an elder then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, self-controlled, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach…” Hospitality is listed before the ability to teach!
In Titus 1:7-8, Paul writes, “For an elder must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just (or righteous), holy, self-controlled…” Here hospitality is listed before holiness and self-control!
But hospitality isn’t just for church leaders, although they must model it; it is for everyday, average believers. In Romans 12, in Paul’s description of what the church should look like, part of that description is “distributing to the needs of the saints, given to (or pursuing) hospitality” (Romans 12:13). All of us should be taking what we have and sharing it with others. Just as the believers in the infant church shared what they had with others, breaking bread from house to house, and selling their property so that they would have finances to help those who were in need, so we need to practice hospitality among ourselves.
But it doesn’t end there because the writer to the Hebrews reminds us that “brotherly love should continue” (Hebrews 13:1). He tells us to “not forget to entertain strangers, for by this some have unknowingly entertained angels” (Hebrews 13:2). As Abraham rested in the door of the tent in the heat of the day, he saw three men approaching. “He ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground,” and invited them to stay for lunch. Seeing that lunch was prepared, Abe found himself in conversation with God Himself about his 90 year old wife, who God said, was going to have a baby (Genesis 18:1-15).
What if Abraham would have suggested that these travelers just keep on going and find their lunch somewhere else? Offering hospitality to strangers resulted in having a lunch meeting with God; and Abraham’s life and lineage was changed forever.