Hospitality: The Forgotten Charity (Part 1).
One thing I’ve loved about the south is their practice of southern hospitality. Southern people seem to make every effort to speak to you, invite you into their homes, or do whatever it takes to entertain your comfort. I am oblivious to the fact that in some areas of the south, hospitality is changing, but still it’s a shining example of hospitality.
What should hospitality truly look like today? For the American Christian, is it often neglected? It is utterly amazing how sheep and leaders alike can ignore one another; never spend time together in each others home; yet come together for fellowship as if they are best of friends. I mean think about, when was the last time you opened up your home to a person or when has your pastor opened up his home to you? Generally, as it seems, Americans are becoming more separated when concerning our private home life. Could this be part of the reason we’ve rejected following the bible’s instructions on hospitality?
In Titus 1:8, Paul the Apostle, explains to his true child in the common faith, Titus (Titus 1:4), the positive characteristics which MUST BE observed in a candidate for eldership. Notably, hospitality is the one them, yet can offer the potential to be overlooked. By the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, this series will examine hospitality by focusing some key points concerning hospitality, which should be observable from a church’s leadership down through its members. Believers everywhere should be the administrators of hospitality; even in unsafe environments.
First we’ll explore the meaning of hospitality within its context of Titus 1. It’s good idea we start with leadership, since they’re one of the primary examples for believers. After that, we’ll turn our attention to the greatest example of hospitality: JESUS CHRIST. Following His example, we’ll see why scripture esteems this attribute. Finally, we’ll close with the expectation of hospitality. The goal of this series is to provide you with insight on what to look for in your leaders, and how each one of us can excel in such a needed charity within the Christianity community.
For the overseer must be above reproach asGod’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious,not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled,(Titus 1:7-8)
Paul list the negatives of what a pastor must not be in verse 7 first. It’s important to emphasize Paul uses the verb dei here, which allows for no wiggle room to exist concerning these qualifications; a pastor MUST BE these things. Continuing on from the negatives, in verse 8, we arrive at the positive traits; and the first positive listed is “hospitable”. Interestingly, questions could rush to the mind as to why Paul doesn’t list the teaching ability first. Of all the positive traits, that should be number one right? Wrong, no matter how great a man’s teaching ability is, he MUST BE first, hospitable.
I mentioned teaching because many in our day emphasize a man’s teaching ability as a sure foundation for one’s calling to the pastorate. Some may entertain the idea of a person being “anointed” just because he can teach well. But biblically, that isn’t the only solidification of a man being qualified. I could be the best expositor of a text, yet if I am rude and invite no one into my home; I am not “anointed”, or better yet, “I am disqualified”. We should hold equally high hospitality as we do doctrinal delivery.
Hospitable (philoxenon φιλόξενον) means being generous to guest or given to hospitality. In 1st Timothy 3:2, it also represents the loving of strangers and being a kind host to guests. In other words, as the slave-leader of the flock, the overseer must be the shining example of inviting men into his home. He must open his living quarters up for all to see neither be shamed in having all types of people over his house.
Being hospitable is a directly opposite the negative trait self-willed (v7). Hospitality inclines an elder to be selfless. Self-willed is “overbearing” while hospitable is “opening”. It is the opening of one’s home and heart to another. In the first century way of life, hospitality was very tangible. From a poor traveler to the weeping widow; all who may have needed a place of security could find the bishop’s home was a right avenue.
Now, in the isles of Crete, being hospitable would be a sure indicator one was saved. How so? Well if you scan a couple of verses down, you’ll find the reason why the qualification was necessary: false teachers (vv10-16). In verse 11, Paul demands they be silenced because they were upsetting whole families. How do you think they were getting into the households back in 1st century Crete? One way false teachers entered these domains was by an incorrect view of hospitality. In Greco-Roman society it wasn’t uncommon to be hospitable to someone in hopes they would return the favor (Jesus had something to say about that which will be discussed later). Knowing this, a false teacher could enter a home because he knew people were looking for blessing in return.
So if unbelievers were to adorn the doctrine of God (Titus 2:10), they would need to see the leaders inviting men into their home no matter what the background while looking for no return on the investment. This made hospitality extremely different from the world’s kindness. Now of course, false teachers (those marked cf Romans 16:17-18) were not to be welcomed into a home because the act of hospitality to them signified support for their false ministry (see 2 John). It was a total opposite for the leader to be leading the charge in letting men into his home. Not seeking any return either speaks volumes as to who’s Lord of your life.
The advancement in technology or change in culture doesn’t alter this virtue. False teachers today almost always are never hospitable, but they have found many ways for you to invite their poisonous doctrine into your home. They are waiting for a way to gain entrance into your abode. So, if you are searching for a true shepherd who’s following the Chief Shepherd, JESUS CHRIST, then you must see them inviting people to their home. I beg to ask these questions, but they are important. Do you have your pastor’s number? Can you reach him? Or do you have to go through thousands of avenues to speak with the “man of God”? Do you know his address, and could you visit him if you wanted to on regular basis? (I am not advocating you do this, we have to remember love is not rude) If the answer is no to any of those questions, re-read Titus 1:7-8 and 1st Timothy 3:1-7 and study what hospitality is. There is a big problem if your pastor is not hospitable.
Strangers should feel welcomed by a man of God. It totally boggles the mind when I see pastors being more secluded and to themselves than 12 nuns in a convent. That’s just downright selfish and unbiblical. Praise the Lord if you have a shepherd who is totally opposite. A congregation must be able to see the life of their pastor beyond the pulpit. The pulpit is essential not the only place he feeds men.
Now, I must indicate that it doesn’t mean your pastor is not hospitable if he’s too busy to meet with you or his secretary is unable to fit you into his schedule. Some pastors are truly busy. But when you do see him, that warm welcome should still be accessible. If there is a continual coldness and selfish reservation of one who’s called a pastor, then that is something which needs to be addressed to your leadership. Make it a point to do so. The mere essence of hospitality should start at leadership and trickle down, as next time we’ll see this in our supreme example, the LORD JESUS CHRIST.