"Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James 1:22 (NKJV)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Week 13: Offer Hospitality to One Another

"Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling." 1 Peter 4:9

There are no solo Christians. God doesn't allow it. If you think you can do Christianity all by yourself, you're wrong. "We who are many form one body and each member belongs to the others." Romans 12:5. Jesus said that the mark of his disciples would be that they love one another. John 13:34-35. The call to belong to one another and to love one another requires much more than attendance at a Sunday morning service. God calls us to share our lives with one another. He calls us beyond the superficial small talk of Sunday morning. He calls us to follow the example of the members of the early church who "devoted themselves . . . to fellowship" and who "broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts." Acts 2:42-47.

There are many ways for us to share our lives together. I've been in a small group for most of the last eighteen years. Christina and I have been attending a mid-week small group together for the last eight years. It's a habit that has made all the difference in my life. Through small group, I've made deep friendships with people that have enriched me, encouraged me and changed me.

Last week's command was First Peter 4:9: "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling." The call to hospitality is about taking a small practical step towards deeper relationships. It is about opening the doors to our homes and our souls and letting people see what is really there. This last week, Christina and I had people into our home for Ethan's fourth birthday party. I had some guys from small group over for a late night game night. Neither event seemed very spiritually significant to me, but I tend to underestimate the value of just spending time and having fun together. Don't you find it easier to serve, encourage and pray for others effectively, when you have a shared foundation of friendship and fellowship?

Hospitality comes easily and naturally to Christina, but not for me. I'm an introvert. What I mean by that is I'm energized by time alone and with those closest to me and drained by time with big groups of people. Christina, on the other hand, gains energy and strength by being with a lot of people. It's not that Christina likes people, and I don't. I just enjoy them more in smaller doses. You can always find me at the edges of the party or the fringe of the group. I'd be very happy to chat with you, but I don't want to be in the middle of things. And, to be honest, I'm stingy about my precious little "free time." As a result, I'm often reluctant to have people over and then grouch and complain when we're preparing our home for guests.

Here is my problem. God not only commands us to offer hospitality but to do so "without grumbling." During this project, I've realized that God commands not only our actions but also our thoughts and feelings. He wants me to be a certain kind of person. He wants me to have a deep and sincere affection for His people. He wants me to reflect his grace and generosity. It's not something that I can muster up on my own. On the other hand, my personal inability to obey God's commands does not excuse my failure to do so. My only choice is to pray that God will change my heart.

Here is the good news. God changes hearts. He has been changing mine, and he continues to change it. I don't think God is going to turn me into an extrovert, although he could. There is a place for us shy introverts in the church. On the other hand, God has been cultivating and nurturing in me a greater love for His people. Christian love is not something we acquire all at once. It is a growing thing. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: "We ought to always thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing." 2 Thess. 1:3. For those of us who still have a lot of growing to do, we can say with confidence that what God has started, he will complete. "[H]e who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6.

There are still times when I've hit my limit and need to be alone for my own sanity and the well-being of people around me. I find, however, that I enjoy fellowship now more than I ever have, and it's exciting to feel God's liberating power overcoming my brokenness and self-centeredness.


This week, I finish my "one another" commands, with the one command I've been dreading more than any other. "Greet one another with a holy kiss." Romans 16:16. More on that tonight or tomorrow. Until then, grace and peace to you.


  1. Yes! I've been waiting for this week!! ;)

  2. So good, Nathan! I believe all of our unique temperaments have their weaknesses. We can choose to live in them, just excusing them as the way God wired us, or we can lean into God's strength and let him glory in our weakness. I love seeing your transparency about God changing your heart. We all are on that same path...learning to love others the way Christ loved us!