Be a lover of hospitality. Titus 1:8.
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9.
For many people the mention of hospitality calls to mind Martha Stewart more than the Gospels. While it is worthy to mention the value of opening your home to others, there is a bit more being conveyed in these words.
The word being translated hospitality actually means loving kindness to strangers. And the word strangers refers to resident aliens, minorities, and sojourners in the land. In other words, these scriptures are dealing with the age old problem of ethnicity, prejudice and racism. Do you really think that will ever be properly dealt with outside of Christ?
To demonstrate this truth, let’s start with a narrative from Luke 17 where Jesus is met by ten lepers seeking their healing. He orders them to go show themselves to the priests. As they departed they discover that they have been cleansed and one of them returns to glorify God in giving thanks before the Lord’s feet, and he was a Samaritan.
Jesus comments “there are none found that returned to give glory to God, besides this stranger.” Luke 17:18.
The Samaritans were the despised people living among the most misunderstood people in history, and are enshrined in the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ by the words “Good Samaritan”.
These strangers stand out among the members of society by whose treatment the Lord will judge the nations. Matthew 25:31-46.
So what does the Law and the Prophets have to say about this thorny topic? Let’s consider this survey:
You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. Exodus 22:21.
Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt. Exodus 23:9.
The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:34.
One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly and for the stranger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord. One law and one custom shall be for you and for the stranger who dwells with you. Numbers 15:14, 15.
He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. Deuteronomy 10:18, 19.
Do not let the son of the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord speak saying “The Lord has utterly separated me from His people”. Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants. Even them I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer. For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, “Yet I will gather to him others besides those who are gathered to him.” Isaiah 56:1-8.
Thus says the Lord: “Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. Jeremiah 22:3.
The people of the land have used oppression, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger. Ezekiel 22:29.
And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts. Malachi 3:5.
So we see beyond the prophets condemning society’s injustice, a Law given to Moses that was acutely concerned for the rights of strangers. How then did this wall of separation come to exist that Paul speaks of in his letter to the Ephesians?
At that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Ephesians 2:12.
How could this be true when the Law of Moses had made every accommodation for the foreigner who desired to seek the Lord? In verse fifteen he says that the enmity was created by the law of commandments in ordinances: nomos entole en dogma. This expression refers to what Jesus referred to as the traditions and rules of men undermining the Word of God.
Because of the mutual hatred and distrust that existed between the Jew and all of the neighboring societies, no Jew would even sit at a table and eat a meal with a gentile. This is something that even the apostle Peter was called out on by Paul, the apostle of the gentiles. In contrast, Jesus always ate with publicans and sinners.
Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?” Galatians 2:11-14.
Even though he had fully embraced the gentile as a fellow believer when the Lord had given him a vision that corrected his views in Acts 10, his fear of men resulted in hypocrisy.
Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful (Pharisaic) it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Acts 10:28.
And finally he concludes: Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that fears Him, and works righteousness, is accepted with him. Acts 10:34, 35.
As an elder of the first church in Jerusalem, Peter was very familiar with the complications of a Jewish/Gentile fellowship. When he wrote in his letter to show hospitality without grumbling, the word used is more often translated murmuring. This grumbling or murmuring began early on in the church.
And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Acts 6:1.
Note the clear racial overtones to the situation at hand. The solution the apostles came up with to deal with the problem was to have the congregation choose for themselves seven men to appoint over the administrative duties.
The apostle Paul recalls for us in 1 Corinthians 10 how murmuring and complaining was the “original sin” of the congregation in the wilderness. The people had just passed through the Red Sea and witnessed a great deliverance when they soon were murmuring against God and Moses.
And the people murmured against Moses, saying, what should we drink? Exodus 15:24.
And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: Exodus 16:2.
Now in their defense I would point out that they had traveled three days in the wilderness and not found any fresh water. Most Christians have murmured and complained about far less. The point is that this is far more serious than most give consideration.
Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 1 Corinthians 10:11.
When Paul says that this issue is where the ends of the ages meet, he was ushering in the end of the age of justification by works of the Law and bringing in the age of justification by grace.
For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17.
But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. 1 Corinthians 10:5, 6.
For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end; While it is said, today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. For some, when they heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he grieved forty years? Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? And to whom He swore that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Hebrews 3:14-19.
In other words, regardless of the covenant, grumbling and complaining are an offense to God and will be considered an act of unbelief. And now we can look to Abram to complete the picture and find the purpose.
Paul taught that Abram was the father of justification by faith, for when he was told his offspring would be as the stars of heaven, he believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.
James pointed out that Abraham later proved his faith by offering his son Isaac in obedience to God. But in Hebrews we are reminded that the first great act of faith, without which nothing else would have followed, was his departure from his home land.
By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went… he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country…for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God… and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. Hebrews 11:8-16 (highlights.)
James wrote that true religion is to care for widows and orphans and to keep ourselves unspotted by the world. James 1:27
Why then does he not mention strangers along with widows and orphans as the Law of Moses and the prophets do so often? Because we are called to be the stranger, the pilgrim, the sojourner in this world. We cannot conform to this world and expect to be translated into a heavenly homeland.
A community church may compromise to be inoffensive and socially acceptable, but any individual who hopes to go from the called to the chosen, or elect; must be willing to step outside that comfort zone. To set hands on the plow and not look back until you have completed your course and remain faithful.
Here is how: Do all things without murmuring and disputing, That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life. Philippians 2:14-16.