************ Sermon on 1 Peter 4:9 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on June 17, 2001

1 Peter 4:1-11
1 Peter 4:9
"Offer Hospitality to One Another"

Topic: Hospitality
Index: 3398-3400
Date: 6/2001.101

Eleven years ago my sister-in-law, Mary, brought her daughter, Sarah, to Minneapolis for brain surgery. Mary and Sarah were there for almost a month. Several times every week a couple in one of the Christian Reformed Churches there visited Sarah in the hospital and took Mary out for coffee or dinner. They also made a point of having Mary at their home for Sunday dinner. They did this though Mary and Sarah were strangers to them.
Why did this couple do this? And, why would Mary even allow strangers to love and support her and Sarah in such a way? The reason has to do with the Lord's command to "offer hospitality to one another."

We continue our study this morning of the "one another" passages found in the New Testament. As you all should know by now, the one another passages are those that tell us what we are called to do for "one another" within the fellowship of believers. The one another passages are those that describe the many forms that Christian fellowship can and should take. There are over fifty "one another" passages in the New Testament. Today, we look at the command to "Offer hospitality to one another."

I Hospitality - What It Is
A What is hospitality? Hospitality is the ability to welcome and graciously serve guests and strangers. The Greek word for "hospitable" literally means "lover of strangers," "friend of strangers," or "fond of guests."

The hospitable person is one who loves entertaining not only family or friends, but also strangers. The hospitable person enjoys looking after the needs of their guests, giving them food, providing them a bed, supplying their physical comforts. The hospitable person does not feel imposed upon even by unexpected visitors. The hospitable person has a knack for making strangers feel at ease in their home and church.

Our English word "hospitality" shares the same root as the words "hospital" and "hospice." This reminds us that "hospitality" has to do with care-giving and healing. In extending food, shelter, rest, and good conversation, one is providing a place where people can be healed from the pains and sorrows of this life.

I am sure we all remember the story of how Jesus and His disciples one day dropped in unexpectedly on Mary and Martha. Mary was praised for her attentiveness in listening to Jesus while Martha was admonished for her busy-ness. But you know what Martha was doing? She was trying to be hospitable! That's why she was so busy cooking dinner.

The story of Mary and Martha, however, reminds us that being a good host and hostess does not depend, first of all, on the cleanliness of the house or the tastiness of the food. Rather, as Mary demonstrates, hospitality begins with listening, with getting a guest to talk, with giving time to a guest.

B The Ancient World considered hospitality to be very important. For the Greeks hospitality was a sign of being civilized. For the Egyptians, being hospitable helped to secure a favorable existence in the future life. Among the Romans, entertaining strangers was a sacred duty.

In Biblical culture, extending hospitality was not just a courtesy but a sacred obligation. Hospitality was to be shown to the stranger in the land for God's sake. It was part of one's obedience to God. Israel was to remember that their father, Abraham, was a traveler, a pilgrim, a sojourner who needed the hospitality of various people. Israel was also to remember that at one time she was a stranger in Egypt. Remembering this, she was to show hospitality to strangers within her midst (Ex 22:21; 23:9; Lev 19:34).

C You also need to realize that in the Ancient World a Hospitality Code was developed to provide a way for strangers to be welcomed as guests and to leave as friends instead of as enemies. There were four phases in hospitality: initial invitation, screening, provision, and departure.

The first phase was an initial invitation. It became customary for travelers approaching a town or city to wait in an open place such as the well or city gate for a preliminary invitation. The failure of a community to approach the stranger before nightfall was a serious breach of honor.

The second phase was screening. Outsiders were suspect and had to be approached cautiously to determine their intentions. A local would approach and ask them their business or reason for traveling. Animals and packs would be examined to make sure the traveler was not an enemy in disguise. The stranger would then either be asked to leave or would be received as a guest.

The third phase was provision. Strangers accepted as guests would have their feet washed and were given a meal. In order not to insult the guests and dishonor the host, the meal must be the best the host could provide think of the choice calf, curds, and milk that Abraham provided his three visitors. Additional honor would be given by inviting a guest to speak, by anointing his head with oil, and by giving him an honored place at the host's table. It was also the duty of the host to provide protection from harm think of Lot trying to protect his visitors by offering his daughters to the men of Sodom.

The fourth stage was departure. Guests could expect to stay in one household for no more than two nights. It would be rude and dishonorable for a guest to stay longer than that unless the host clearly extended an invitation to stay longer. A generous host would send guests off well fed and supplied for the journey.

II Hospitality - The Need For Within the Church
A Within this context we are to hear the command of our text to "Offer hospitality to one another."

There was a huge need for hospitality within the early church. First of all, many early Christians were on the move because of persecution. Refugees arrived in Rome continually. Paul asked the Christians of Rome to take these people in (Rom 12:13b). They came poor, upset, tired. They needed help and understanding. They needed food and clothing and a bed for the night and a home for the day. They needed hospitality. Such hospitality might be risky, inconvenient, and even costly. Yet, Paul expected the Christians of Rome to show hospitality to their persecuted brothers and sisters.

B Second, hospitality was needed by Christian businessmen. Business pursuits took many believers to all parts of the Roman Empire. Though the empire was known for its good roads, it did not provide suitable places of lodging. No Holiday Inns, Howard Johnsons, Hiltons, or Sheratons dotted the highways. The inns that did exist were usually houses of prostitution. And, because of robbers and weather, business travelers could not sleep along the road either. These Christian businessmen needed the hospitality of fellow believers.

C Third, hospitality was needed for the spread of the Gospel. Like the Christian businessmen, preachers and missionaries required overnight lodging. In more than one place Christians were exhorted to open their homes and welcome as guests those who labored as preachers and missionaries. Such hospitality helped to further the Gospel. I think of what John writes in his third letter. He commends Gaius {gah'-ee-os} for showing hospitality to strangers who came preaching the gospel (3 John 5-9). And, he rebuked Diotrophes who refused to welcome Christian workers and "stops those who wants to do so and puts them out of the church" (3 John 9-10).

When our Lord sent the 72 out, He expected them to receive hospitality (Lk 10:7). When the apostles and their fellow workers were commanded to take the Gospel to remote places, the Lord of the harvest anticipated hospitality on the part of believers.

The Bible, however, places limitations on hospitality given to preachers and teachers. False teachers and prophets were not to receive hospitality:
(2Jn 1:10-11) If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. (11) Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.
We see that truth was not to be sacrificed for hospitality or love.

III Examples of Hospitality
A The Bible contains many fine examples of hospitality. Abraham and Lot both showed hospitality to men they later discovered to be angels (Gen 18, 19). Rebekah opened her home to Abraham's servant (Gen 24). And, God's servant Job boasts:
(Job 31:32) but no stranger had to spend the night in the street, for my door was always open to the traveler--

We know that Jesus was always a welcome guest in the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon (Acts 9:43). Peter also received an invitation to stay at the home of Cornelius (Acts 10:48).

Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, invited and persuaded the Apostle Paul to stay at her house (Acts 16:15). The converted Philippian jailer brought Paul and Silas into his house and fed them (Acts 16:34). On his last trip to Jerusalem, Paul stayed in several homes along the way. He was seven days with disciples at Tyre, one day with brothers at Ptolemais, and a number of days in the home of Philip the evangelist. In Jerusalem Paul stayed at the home of Mnason, an early disciple from Cyprus (Acts 21:4,7,8,16).

B One of the most moving examples of Christian hospitality in the 20th century took place in Europe during the Second World War. Many courageous believers took it upon themselves to hide Jews from Hitler's purge. This hospitality often jeopardized one's life and possessions. "The Hiding Place" by Corrie ten Boom tells of a secret room her father built behind a false wall in their house. Before detection by German authorities, her family provided life-saving hospitality for seven Jews for several months.

C Did you know that hospitality is especially required of elders and pastors? In the list of qualifications for an overseer (bishop, pastor, elder) in 1 Timothy 3 we find such things as above reproach, one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, no drunkenness, no love for money. Right in the middle is this requirement: hospitable. Pastors and elders are to be hospitable, they are to offer hospitality.

Furthermore, no widow could be put on the list of widows unless she was well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up her children, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble, and showing hospitality (1 Tim 5:9-10).

IV Hospitality - A Duty Of All Christians
A "Offer hospitality to one another." We see here that all Christians have a responsibility to give or show hospitality. While hospitality is especially to be shown to strangers and guests, the duty of hospitality is to be exercised upon all.

The Bible says this in more than one place. It tells us "to carry each other's burdens" (Gal 6:2), to "do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers" (Gal 6:9,10), and to "practice hospitality" (Rom 12:13b).

Hebrews 13 urges us to follow the example of the ancients who emphasized hospitality and because of it sometimes unknowingly welcomed angels into their homes. The reference is undoubtedly to Abraham and Lot entertaining strangers and later discovering them to be angels (Gen 18).

B "Offer hospitality to one another." It is true that the need for hospitality for traveling Christian workers does not exist to the same degree today as it did in the early church. Yet, visiting choirs from Christian schools and colleges usually require an evening meal, overnight lodging, breakfast, and a bag lunch; they require hospitality. Hospitality, at least in terms of dinner, is often required when a missionary or a guest pastor comes in for a day.

There are many personal opportunities to exercise hospitality: display gracious openness to strangers, entertain in your home, welcome new Christian school teachers into your family circle. Within the church you can be a greeter; you can welcome new members and invite them over. Within the community you can make welcome calls on new families.

This Summer we, as a congregation, our hosting a SERVE project 70 youth and chaperones from across North America. It is our job to offer hospitality: giving them a place to sleep, providing food, arranging for worship and a worship leader, and finding opportunities for them to serve the Lord in the community. Part of our role as host is to pray for the SERVants. After the service this morning you will be given a chance again to sign up as a host prayer partner. In return you will be given a picture of your SERVant you will be asked to attend a fellowship dinner on the Sunday of SERVE, you will be invited to a dessert on Wednesday, and you can see updates on our web-site. That isn't asking much in terms of hospitality but it is something we all can do.

C I want to ask if hospitality is to be found today? To be sure, every family needs privacy. But the trend today is to think of our homes as our castles, secure and protected and locked against all others. This is not a Biblical idea. There are many people wanting to live in luxury and to live undisturbed by anyone. They offer no invitation to others to visit them and make sure that they are unapproachable.

I have noticed a trend over the years that many people no longer visit in each other's homes. Instead, they go out for dinner or meet at the bowling alley or even at a bar. This is a crying shame! How can we support and love each other if we no longer practice hospitality?

How different the picture in the Bible! There the home is to be open for hospitality. Money is to be spent not on luxury but on ministry to others. The result: hospitality!

D Sometimes it can be a lot of work to show hospitality. But we are not to complain about this. In our text Peter commands us,
(1Pt 4:9) Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
Think of what this says to those of you who complain about our hospitality dinners the first Sunday of each month. And, think of what this says to those of you who refuse to participate in these dinners or refuse to invite visitors to your home.
Topic: Hospitality
Index: 3398-3400
Date: 12/1986.1
Title: Say What I Say

A family was entertaining the pastor and his wife for Sunday dinner on a hot, blistering day. When all were seated, the man of the house turned to his six-year-old and asked him to say grace. "But, Daddy, I don't know what to say," he protested. "Oh, just say what you've heard me say," the mother chimed in. Obediently he bowed his little head and said, "O Lord, why did I invite these people here on a hot day like this?!"
This boy's mother may have had the pastor as a guest but she was not showing hospitality.

E Sometimes, it can be very difficult to show hospitality to certain kinds of people. Some people easily win our hearts and others are difficult to love.
Topic: Hospitality
Index: 3398-3400
Date: 8/1985.3
Title: Proving God's Love

An old Jewish legend says that one day Abraham was standing by his tent door when he saw an old man coming along the way, weary with his journey and with bleeding feet. With true hospitality he invited the old man to share his meal and to lodge with him for the night. Abraham noticed that he asked no blessing on the meal and inquired why he did not pray to the God of Heaven. The old man said, "I am a fire worshiper and acknowledge no other god." At this, Abraham grew angry and sent him from his tent. Then God called Abraham and asked, "Where is the old man?" Abraham explained what happened. Then God said, "I have cared for him for over a hundred years even though he has dishonored me. Could you not endure him one night and so prove to him God's love?"
Where is our hospitality? Are we doing all we can for those around us needing hospitality, love, and friendship?

Some day we will stand before the throne of God. On that day God will not praise us for the strength of our faith. Nor will He praise us for how well we know the Bible or the Catechism. But He will praise us if we have shown hospitality:
(Mt 25:34-35) Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. (35) For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in ...
Imagine that: God rewards us for showing hospitality.

Do you, do we, show hospitality?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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