Sunday, August 14, 2011

On being like God: Hospitality

God does not call us to be isolated followers; he calls us to fellowship. God is love, and he asks his followers to live in love. How can that be done in isolation? The New Testament instructs us to show hospitality to one another. But in many ways we have forgotten this teaching.

Peter, a leader among the apostles, writes:
And above all things, have fervent love among yourselves, for love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (I Peter 4:8-9)
Peter writes as though the natural expression of love is hospitality. And still we are slow to open our homes to each other.

Peter wrote to all the members of the church: that we should offer hospitality to each other. If hospitality is required of the members, then how much more for the leaders. Paul lists it among the qualifications of a church leader:
An overseer must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach. (1 Timothy 3:2)
For church leaders, hospitality was given priority even over the ability to teach. I don't mean to neglect being blameless and all that; it tops off Paul's list. But the other things that Paul names are things we generally still expect of our church leaders. Why don't we expect leaders who are given to hospitality?

I have sometimes heard church leaders congratulate themselves on how they've finally stood up to their parishioners, who have asked: Shouldn't their parishioners be hospitable to them? Why then do the parishioners have any right to complain that their pastor never visits them or invites them over, if they have never taken the initiative and invited their pastor?

But the church leaders are called to lead -- and to lead by example. The thing about leading by example is that we're always setting an example, just maybe not a good one. If the church leaders do not invite their people and do not visit their people, they are leading all the same: they are showing by example that hospitality is not important here.

God calls us to be his people in the world. We become a people when we know and love each other. So the leader builds that group together by showing hospitality, and fellowship grows where people are welcomed.


Craig said...

Hi Anne,

I might have gotten a bit lost on what you are saying. Are you saying that leaders shouldn't expect their parishioners to show hospitatlity until they do?

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Craig

I wrote that kind of late at night; I've been considering rewording some of it.

But the point I'm trying to say is this: that hospitality is part of the job description of the leaders, and part of leading the church. It's not an optional part either. The shepherds shouldn't have to be told to go find their sheep, and get to know them.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Craig said...

That's what I thought you were saying. I just wanted to be sure.

Since this is what you meant, I can now whole-heartedly agree with you! :-)