The Vital Connection between Sincere Love and Hospitality in the Church
Hospitality is vital to the life of the church. How we treat someone, whether they’re a visitor or longtime member, may affect their involvement within a church. It may also impact their decision to continue attending a church. Most of us have visited a church at some point in time. For me, especially when looking for a church while a seminary student, I asked myself three things:
Did I hear the gospel?
Did the church lead a God-centered worship service?
Did anyone greet or speak to me after the service?
While the first two points are usually out of our control, we can control the third one when someone visits our church.
We are called to display sincere love and affection when we greet each other.
On different occasions, Scripture tells us to greet each other with a holy kiss (Rom. 16:16, 1 Cor. 16:20, 2 Cor. 13:12, 1 Thess. 5:26, and 1 Peter 5:14). First century, Greco-Roman cultural norms are obviously very different from our twenty-first century, American cultural norms. We are not necessarily called to kiss each other when a handshake is a sufficient greeting, but there is an intimacy involved in the greeting we are told to give within the church. We are called to display sincere love and affection when we greet each other. This greeting reaches a deeper level, such as asking how we might pray for one another or rejoice and weep with someone.
Sincere love isn’t shown only through a greeting but is truly expressed by a desire to form friendships and fellowship with our fellow church members. When we allow other people into our lives, we allow ourselves to become a part of their lives. Becoming a part of the church is like joining a family. Family members share in each other’s joy and burdens. They unconditionally love each other, and they hold each other accountable. As Peter states in his letter:
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Pet. 4:8-9)
So how can we do this?
Longtime church members can easily spot visitors or new members. Reach out to them and welcome them. Show them the love of Christ that has been shown to you. New members, get involved in the church life and reach out to those around you as well. Everyone should work toward lifting up fellow Christians and the lost.
Find those who seem to be on the fringe. Make an effort to get to know those outside of the normal group with which you usually interact. Sharing a meal with one another provides a great opportunity to get to know each other. Are you particularly gifted in hospitality? Invite people into your home to enjoy a meal with you, especially if they do not have a local family of their own. Don’t have the means to do this? Ask them to sit with you during a church meal. Christ provides many other examples as he spoke with, ate with, served, and ministered to people around him throughout Scripture, especially those who were often seen as unworthy by the rest of society.
When we are humbled by the gospel, we are reminded that no one should be deemed unlovable.
What a joy it is to be a member of the family of God and to be a member of his church. How humbling it is to know that we are members of the church for which Christ sacrificed himself out of love. Let us use the motivation that comes out of this joy to show a similar love to those around us. When we are humbled by the gospel, we are reminded that no one should be deemed unlovable. Because even while we were still enemies, Christ loved us enough to die for us all.
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