Confessions of a Xenophiliac
I Peter 4:9-10
June 10, 1990
They say that true confession is good for the soul, and in that spirit, I want to begin my sermon with a simple confession. Although I am preaching a series of sermons on spiritual gifts, I am not entirely sure that what I am preaching about this morning actually is a spiritual gift. I think it is, I believe it is, but I’m not totally sure that it is. I know that it’s biblical, but I’m not sure it’s a spiritual gift.
And after you hear this sermon, some of you may wonder why this particular gift wasn’t on the Spiritual Gifts Inventory. Well, it was in one way but it wasn’t in another because we weren’t really sure. It’s biblical—you don’t have to worry about that—but I’m not totally sure it’s a spiritual gift. After you read this sermon, you can make up your own mind.
Is It Or Isn’t It?
With that as a background, let’s take things step by step. We begin by looking at a very special Greek word—philoxenia. The word shows up in one form or another in the New Testament about 10 times. Philoxenia is a compound made up of two other Greek words—philos, which means “kind affection” or “love” and xenos, which means “stranger” or foreigner.” Literally, philoxenia means “one who loves strangers.” It is translated as the English word “hospitality.”
That’s the first step. We’re talking about philoxenia, which is translated “hospitality,” which is the act of show-ing kindness to strangers. It is clearly biblical (a fact we will get to in a few moments) and is in fact mentioned in many different places in the New Testament. But is it a spiritual gift?
I think the answer is yes, but there is some uncertainty because it is not clearly listed as a spiritual gift in the major passages on the subject—Romans 12, I Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. But—and this is the key to the whole sermon—it is mentioned in I Peter 4, the last New Testament passage on spiritual gifts.
Here is how the New International Version translates I Peter 4:9-10:
Offer hospitality (The Greek word is philoxenia.) to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others.
It would appear from this translation that Peter is talking about two different things here—that in verse 9 he is talking about hospitality and then in verse 10 he shifts to spiritual gifts. It appears that there is no connection between these two subjects.
But in the Greek there is a connection which the NIV obscures. Verse 10 actually begins with the word kathos, which means “just as.” It is a connective which joins verse 9 to verse 10. You could very legitimately translate it this way:
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling just as each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others.
That is, it appears that Peter is using hospitality as an example of how to use your spiritual gifts to serve others. Verse 9 is the example; verse 10 is the principle. Showing hospitality is one way you can use your spiritual gifts to serve others.
That’s the biblical basis for the spiritual gift of hospitality (as opposed to the general command to hospitality—a command which everyone recognizes). If that seems a slender base on which to build this sermon, I can only mention that such a conservative stalwart as Bill McRae (Dynamics of Spiritual Gifts, p. 45) agrees that the Apostle Peter probably considered hospitality to be a spiritual gift. Peter Wagner (Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow, pp. 69-70) says the same thing as does Kenneth Gangel (Unwrap Your Spiritual Gift, p. 100) and Leslie Flynn (19 Gifts of the Spirit, pp. 108-115), who devotes an entire chapter to the topic.
Therefore, I feel quite confident in suggesting that we ought to add hospitality to our traditional list of spiritual gifts. It is a specimen gift used by Peter as an example of the ways we can use all our gifts to serve others.
Surveying The Biblical Landscape
What else does the New Testament have to say about hospitality? Let’s answer that question by taking a quick survey of some key passages. The first one is Romans 12:13. “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Some translations say it this way—Pursue hospitality. Not just “practice” hospitality, but diligently “pursue” philoxenia—the love of strangers, which is biblical hospitality.
That is a command of Scripture. It is clearly not talking about spiritual gifts. It is a command given to every man, woman, boy and girl who claims the name of Jesus Christ. If we are Christians, we are to earnestly prac-tice showing love to those who are strangers to us. It is a non-optional command of God.
The second passage is I Peter 4:9. I mention it again because we passed over a crucial phrase earlier: “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling”. That’s crucial because it is all too easy to open your home only to those who are your close personal friends. Peter isn’t talking about having your pals over for a game night. That’s good and you ought to do it, but Peter isn’t thinking about that. He’s thinking about those times when you show kindness to people you don’t know very well. How easy it is in those cases to mumble and grumble and gripe under your breath. And when you do that, you miss the blessing God wants you to receive.
We’ve all done that. We meet some new people and say, “Drop by any time.” So one night we’re eating supper and a knock comes at the door. Who can it be? We open the door and it’s those new people—all six of them—standing on the porch with big smiles. So what do we do? We smile right back and say, “Good to see you. Come on in.” But in reality our fingers are crossed when we say it and in our hearts we don’t mean a word of it.
God knows whether we mean it or not. We aren’t fooling him a bit. That’s why he said our hospitality must be done without grumbling.
The third passage offers us a very unusual encouragement to practice hospitality. Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” The word translated “angels” simply means “messengers.” It could mean the literal angels of God or it could mean human messengers. In this case, the writer to the Hebrews is thinking about the possibility that the literal angels of God might come to visit us. In the back of his mind is the story in Genesis 18 where Abraham welcomed three strangers who came to visit him. Without knowing their identity, he served them veal and milk and curds and fresh bread. One turned out to be the Lord himself and the other two turned out to be angels.
The writer is suggesting that such a thing might someday happen to us. By definition, philoxenia means showing kindness to people you don’t know very well. Since you don’t know them, you don’t know in advance who they might turn out to be. Some people we help, we will never see again. Others may become good friends. Others may turn out to be greatly-used servants of God. And who knows? Some may turn out to be angels of God. When you show love to those who are not your close friends, sometimes you are going to be blessed in ways you don’t expect. Since you can’t know in advance, make it a practice to show Christian love to as many strangers as possible.
The fourth passage tells us something about the importance of hospitality in the life of the church. I Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:8 list hospitality as one of the marks of spiritual maturity required of overseers or elders in the local church. The men who lead the church must be “given to hospitality.” It is not some sideline issue. The ability to show love and affection to strangers is to be a visible mark of those who lead the people of God. Biblical elders know how to welcome new people into their hearts, into their lives, and into their homes. And we are to actively seek out leaders who meet that qualification.
What does this brief biblical survey teach us? It tells us that …
1. Hospitality is a non-optional command of God. Romans 12:13
2. Hospitality must be performed without grumbling. I Peter 4:9
3. Hospitality often brings us unexpected blessings. Hebrews 13:2
4. Hospitality is a mark of spiritual maturity required of those who lead the people of God. I Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8
Hospitality Across The Centuries
If you read the commentaries, it soon becomes clear why there is such a strong emphasis on hospitality in the New Testament. Back then, they didn’t have Holiday Inns, they didn’t have Red Roof Inns, they didn’t have Executive Suites, they didn’t have Ramada Inns. When Paul came to Corinth, he couldn’t check into the Hilton Inn. It hadn’t been built yet.
They didn’t have all these high-rise fancy hotels and motels that we have today. The few inns they did have were ill-kept and dangerous. F. F. Bruce points out that many of the inns in the Roman Empire were little more than brothels and havens for brigands and robbers.
So as Christians traveled from place to place across the Empire, they didn’t have the option of staying in a motel. The only way the Christian message could spread would be for Christians to open their homes to others. The only way an evangelist from Antioch could make it in Ephesus would be for a family in Ephesus to open their home to him. The only way a teacher from Caesarea could visit Cyprus would be for someone from Cyprus to open his home and say, “My Brother, you are welcome to stay with me.”
Gaius And Diotrephes
The little book of III John offers a clear example of how this worked out in the early church. John addresses his friend Gaius with these words:
Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. (The “strangers” are traveling Bible teachers who have come to town. Gaius has shown them hospitality even though he didn’t know them personally.) They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. It was for the sake of the Name they were sent out, receiving no help from the pagans. (When God’s servants go out, they can’t depend on the world to pay their way. The world isn’t going to support God’s people in their missionary activity. God’s people must support God’s ser-vants when they go out to spread the gospel. If we don’t, no one else will.) We ought therefore to show hospitality (philoxenia again) to such men so that we may work together for the truth. (III John 5-8)
Please take note of this. In the early church, hospitality was one of the key reasons the gospel spread so rapidly. From a tiny beginning in Jerusalem the message reached to the heart of the Roman Empire in just one generation. It happened in large part because of philoxenia. It happened in Philippi and Athens and Sardis and Miletus and Laodicea and Jerusalem because ordinary believers opened their homes and said to their brothers and sisters, “Come on in. You can stay with us while you are spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Back to III John. The next few verses give us another look at the importance of hospitality.
I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. (The same “brothers” mentioned above. They were Christian workers from other cities who had come to spread the gospel.) He also stops those who want to do so (that is, those who want to welcome these brothers from out-of-town.) and puts them out of the church. (III John 9-10)
It’s very clear what he is saying. Gaius welcomed the brothers, and that’s good. Diotrephes didn’t, and that’s bad. Notice how he puts the matter in verse 11, “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good.” In this context, “what is evil” means refusing to show Christian hospitality and “what is good” means offering hospitality to those who need it.
Here’s the capper at the end of verse 11. “Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.” That is to say, showing hospitality is a mark that you know God. And refusing to open your home and refusing to share your resources is an evidence that you’ve never seen God at all.
You say, “Pastor, is it really that big a deal?” It’s a lot bigger than I’m making it. It’s all the way through the New Testament. The issue of hospitality is no small thing. Opening your home, your heart and your resources to others is a mark that you know God.
Hospitality In Practice
Let’s take a look at one final passage to see how hospitality worked out in the earliest days of the Christian church. Acts 21 tells of Paul’s final trip to Jerusalem before he was arrested and sent to Rome. In the first few verses he is traveling by boat from Ephesus to Caesarea, where he will stay briefly before going on to Jeru-salem. Listen as Luke tells the story:
We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. Finding the disciples there, we stayed with them seven days. (That’s the first example.) Acts 21:2-3
We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and stayed with them for a day. (That’s the second example.) Acts 21:7
Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist … . We (were) there a number of days. (That’s the third example.) Acts 21:8, 10
We got ready and went up to Jerusalem. Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and brought us to the home of Mnason, where we were to stay. He was a man from Cyprus and one of the early disciples. (That’s the fourth example.) Acts 21:15-16
This is the secret of Paul’s great ministry. He didn’t do it alone. Everywhere he went he relied upon the help of God’s people to open their homes to him. In these sixteen verses it happens four times—in Tyre, in Ptolemais, in Caesarea and in Jerusalem. He stayed seven days, one day, a number of days, and then many days in Jeru-salem. Thus did the gospel spread in the first century.
The principle is this: You support God’s work by supporting God’s workers as they travel from place to place.
Your Home, A Hospital For The Weary
Leslie Flynn gives us this helpful background on the meaning of the English word “hospitality.”
The main part of the word hospitality is the word hospital. Ancient travelers, whether pilgrims or businessmen, fared poorly when venturing beyond their own country. Thus religious leaders established international guest houses in the fifth century. These havens were called hospices from hospes, Latin for “guest.” With the coming of the crusades, the importance of the hospice increased greatly. Pilgrims, crusaders and other travelers found hospices, by this time run by religious orders, the only reputable guest houses of the era. Soon after the crusades, most of these institutions began to specialize in the care of the poor, the sick, the aged and the crippled. During the 15th century secular interests took over most entertaining of travelers. So the hospital restricted its function to care and treatment of the sick and handicapped. But originally, hospital meant “a haven for guests.” (Leslie Flynn, 19 Gifts of the Spirit, p. 109.)
Too many of us have lost that concept today. We’ve taken what was meant to be a “haven for guests” and we have turned it into a “haven from guests.” Too often, our homes are places where we can go to get away from people.
In modern urban America, your home is your final line of defense against the world. At the end of a hard day, you rush through the maddening crowds to get home by nightfall. Once inside your castle, you grab the rope and begin pulling up the drawbridge. You push a button and water fills the moat around your house and out come the piranhas. Then we dare our neighbors to try and get close to us.
We build walls and fences and elaborate electronic security systems. It’s not just to scare off the criminals. It’s also to scare off anyone else who might need a meal or a place to stay. Our homes to us are places to get away from other people.
But it was not so in the beginning. Back then, your home was meant to be a hospital for the weary and a haven for the hurting. Oh, how we need to recapture that emphasis today.
What a difference it would make if we viewed our homes not as refuges from the world, but as tools given by God for ministering to the world. What a difference it would make if out from this church there would go hundreds of families determined not to hide in their homes, but who would say, “Oh God, you have given me this home and now I give it back to you. With your help, I’m going to use it to minister to people in Jesus’ name.”
The Church In Your Home
And let’s be honest and admit that sometimes our beautiful church buildings work against this great principle. After all, we spend so much money building enormous sanctuaries and vast educational facilities that it stops us from doing philoxenia, because we think all the ministry takes place here.
But where was the church in the first century? It was in the home. “The church that is in your house.” We need to get back to that, back to the concept of open heart, open home. And back to the concept of philoxenia as a mark of Christian maturity. Back to the idea that hospitality is something that Christian leaders are to demonstrate. Back to the idea that showing kindness to strangers is a non-optional command of Scripture.
A Taste Of Haiti
Does it still work today? Or has hospitality gone out of style? You could make a good argument that it doesn’t work today. But you would really be arguing that it doesn’t work because we don’t make it work. Hospitality works when we break out of our 20th century fortress mentality.
In just a few weeks our young people will be taking a mission trip to Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere. I am going with them along with Bob Boerman and several other leaders. We’re going to one of the most remote places in Haiti, a village called Pignon. It’s a town of 30,000 people tucked away in the north central region of the country. It’s about as far away from Oak Park as you can get. There is no electricity, no running water, no radio, no TV, no air conditioning. There are no paved roads and no newspapers. The unem-ployment rate hovers around 90%. The annual per capita income in Pignon is approximately $150.
We’re going to visit a church with 1000 people every Sunday. Their annual budget is around $2000. That’s right. Two thousand dollars. And somehow they run an orphanage and a school and they have built an open-air sanctuary.
They have nothing. The poorest person at Calvary is rich compared to the richest person in the church in Pignon. And they are going to take care of the rich kids from Oak Park for two weeks. And let me tell you, we’ll eat better down there than we do up here. (And we eat just fine up here!)
How do they do it? I don’t know. But I do know this. Hospitality is not just a theory with them; it’s a way of life. And believe it or not, they don’t regard our visit as a burden. To them, it’s a blessing for us to come.
Philoxenia In Leningrad
A few days after we get back from Haiti, another group leaves for Leningrad. They will spend two weeks reno-vating an evangelical church in the heart of that great Russian city. Our people will be staying in the homes of Russian believers. They will work in the church during the day and stay in homes each night.
Have you seen what’s been happening in Russia lately? How they are running out of food and how they have to wait in long lines to get into the grocery stores? How it’s hard to find staples like milk and sugar and butter?
They don’t have much, but they are going to take us in. We have a lot more than they do but they are going to take us in. We’re coming over to help them and while we are there they will open their homes to us. We don’t know them and they don’t know us. Our people don’t speak Russian, they don’t speak much English. But it doesn’t matter. They are going to take us in. They are going to feed us and give us a place to stay, and on Sun-day, they will share their worship service with us. That’s philoxenia, showing kindness to strangers.
If you ever visit Jerusalem, your tour guide will probably take you to a museum called Yad Vashem. It’s a museum dedicated to the Holocaust. Inside are unspeakable reminders of how the Nazis systematically killed six million Jews during World War II. You cannot visit the museum and go away unchanged.
But to get there, you have to walk along a sidewalk that goes from the parking area to the front doors of the museum. It is called the “Avenue of the Righteous of the World.” It looks like a garden because there are olive trees everywhere. At the base of the olive trees are little plaques. On each plaque is the name of a Gentile who at great personal risk gave shelter to the Jews during World War II and spared them from the death camps.
If you search long enough, you will find a plaque with the name Corrie Ten Boom. An olive tree grows by the plaque. You remember her, don’t you? She and her family hid seven Jews for several months in their attic in Holland. The Jews escaped but she and her sister were sent to a concentration camp.
They knew when they did it that they might someday be caught. But they did it anyway. That’s philoxenia, love for strangers, love for those so far away from us.
Back To The Spiritual Gift
There is a spiritual gift of hospitality and I don’t doubt that Corrie Ten Boom and her sister had this gift. Here is how I would define it: It is the special ability God gives to certain members of the body of Christ which enables them to provide an open home and a warm welcome to those in need of food and lodging. (As I mentioned earlier, there is no separate category for “Hospitality” on the Spiritual Gifts Inventory. We did, however, put several questions about hospitality in the section on “Service” so if you scored high on “Service” you probably also have the gift of “Hospitality.”)
We have several people at Calvary who clearly have this gift. For instance, this weekend two fellows from Paragon Productions are coming in to set up the “Winners” presentation for our Day in the Village celebration. Ron and Brenda Larkin volunteered to give them a place to stay. In fact, Ron and Brenda told us that when they bought their house, they deliberately bought one with an extra bedroom so they could open their home to others.
When we moved to Oak Park last August, we stayed with Fred and Erlene Hartman (and with Anthony and Danny) in their home in River Forest until our home in Oak Park was ready. Like the Larkins, they deliber-ately bought a house with an extra bedroom so they could use it to show hospitality to those needing a place to stay. (When Bob and Jean Boerman came to Calvary in 1988, they stayed with the Hartmans just like we did.)
Most of you know Glen and Pam Carley. They opened their home for a whole year to Emi Oh Kubo, a foreign exchange student from Japan. She’s going back to Japan in just a few weeks. And during these months the Carleys have taken her in. While she was here, she accepted Jesus Christ as her personal Savior.
I know someone else who is keeping a Concordia student this summer. The funny thing is, the student just put up a notice on the board and my friend called her and said, “You can stay with me for the summer.” My friend didn’t meet the student until the night she moved in. I am happy to say they are getting along just fine.
I’m thinking of another distinguished family at Calvary. They have a wonderful, elegant home here in Oak Park. I’ve been in it—it’s beautifully decorated. For more than 25 years, this couple has been opening their home to people who need a place to stay. And many of the people have stayed for months and some have stayed for years. I think they are keeping somebody right now. That’s philoxenia—love for strangers.
How To Spot A Xenophiliac
What are the characteristics of a person with this gift? People who practice hospitality come in all shapes and sizes and ages and colors and economic backgrounds. But they usually share a few common traits. If you have this gift …
1. You Enjoy Having People In Your Home. You like the sound of many voices around your table and you enjoy the hustle and bustle of many people coming and going. In fact, you are probably happier when your house is full of people than when it is empty. You would rather be with people than be by yourself.
2. You Look For People You Can Help. When you come to church, your radar naturally homes in on new people who look like they need to be taken under someone’s wing. Sometimes it seems like you just stumble into people who need a place to stay. Actually, it’s not a coincidence at all; it’s your gift manifesting itself wherever you go.
3. You Don’t Feel You Have To Apologize For Messy Rooms. This is one of the clearest evidences of the gift. Not that you put a premium on messiness. But if someone needs a place to stay, you are glad to offer it to them even though some parts of your house may not be in perfect shape. The rest of us who don’t have this gift feel like we have to apologize if things aren’t perfect. But the people gifted in philoxenia open their homes, invite strangers in, and do their cleaning right in front of their guests. (Or they give their guests a broom and invite them to join right in!)
4. You Aren’t Shocked When People Show Up On Your Doorstep At Any Hour Of The Day Or Night. You expect it, it doesn’t bother you, and you don’t feel imposed upon.
5. You Have The Knack For Making People Feel At Home. Let me show you how this works. I found the following quote from the May issue of the Calvary Messenger (p. 9):
There are lonely international students at our local colleges and universities who desire Ameri-can friends. These are immigrants. You can make a difference in their lives … Those involved with “International Friends” are excited about what God is doing in the lives of inter-national students. Here are a few examples:
Xiaochung—a Chinese student—was befriended by Mark and Brenda Thompson. They invited him to their home and on family outings. With him, they prepared a Chinese dinner. Later, Xiaochung was thrilled to attend a retreat where international Christians presented the gospel. (Lord, help Xiaochung to become a Christian and reach his people.)
Chung and Maojium—Taiwanese students—met Don and Joyce Krumsieg in September and by January transferred to other universities. Yet, during the time they were here, a friendship blossomed as they shared their family times and Thanksgiving together. Now they continue their friendship by phone and through letters. For Mother’s Day, Joyce received two lovely cards from Chung and Maojium. (Lord, continue the good work you have begun in the lives of Chung and Maojium.)
What do you need to begin showing hospitality? You need a home or an apartment or a dorm room or a bed or a mat or a cot. And you need a willingness to share what you have with others. That’s all you need to begin—just a place to stay and an open heart.
Roadblocks To Hospitality
I wouldn’t be fair with you if I made it sound like all this is extremely easy. It isn’t, and there are some road-blocks you will have to overcome in order to begin practicing hospitality. Let me list several of the most obvious ones.
Roadblock # 1: Confusing Hospitality With Entertainment. The two could not be further apart. Hospitality is at one end of the spectrum and entertainment is at the other end. Unfortunately, we think hospitality is what happens when we get all dressed up and invite our friends over for a party. That’s nice, and it’s good, but it’s not hospitality.
The difference is this. Entertainment is what happens when you invite your friends over to amuse them; hospitality is what happens when you invite people into your home in order to minister to them. When you entertain, your focus is on the setting; when you show hospitality, your focus is on the people.
Please understand. Entertainment is not bad. But hospitality is better. Hospitality is broader and deeper. Entertainment is quickly forgotten; hospitality is remembered for a lifetime.
Roadblock # 2: Hospitality Is Inconvenient Because We Are Too Busy. This is no doubt the main reason we don’t practice hospitality more than we do. At least it’s my main reason. I confess that I use this excuse all the time. But if you are too busy to show hospitality, then you are too busy. If you are too busy to obey the Bible, then your life (and mine) is out of order.
Roadblock # 3: You Have To Be Rich To Show Hospitality. Fortunately, this is not true. Some of the most hospitable Christians I know live very modestly. Some are middle-income families and some are lower-income families. In fact, I know plenty of wealthy Christians who don’t seem to practice hospitality much at all.
We say, “If I just had a bigger house.” Hey, I say that one myself. But who are we kidding? That’s like the man who says, “If I ever won a million dollars in the lottery, I would give $100,000 to the church.” But that’s not the issue. It’s not what you would do with what you don’t have, it’s what you are doing with what you do have. The same is true with hospitality. Having a larger house won’t change anything without an open heart to go with it. If you aren’t showing hospitality in the two-room apartment you’ve got today, what makes you think you’re going to show hospitality when you have a three million dollar mansion tomorrow?
Many of you recognize the name L’Abri. It means “shelter” in French. L’Abri was the name Francis and Edith Schaeffer chose for the Christian community they established in Switzerland. During the 1950s and 60s stu-dents by the hundreds came to L’Abri from all over the world seeking solid answers to their deepest questions. They came and stayed in the chalets which made up the community. Hundreds of those students found Jesus Christ in the process.
In his excellent book The Church at the End of the 20th Century, Francis Schaeffer describes what it cost to practice hospitality at L’Abri. These words are from the chapter entitled “Revolutionary Christianity” (pp. 107-108):
Don’t start a big program. Don’t suddenly think you can add to your church budget and begin. Start personally and start in your homes. I dare you. I dare you in the name of Jesus Christ. Do what I am going to suggest. Begin by opening your home for community.
L’Abri is costly. If you think what God has done here is easy, you don’t understand. It’s a costly business to have a sense of community. L’Abri cannot be explained merely by the clear doctrine that is preached; it cannot be explained by the fact that God has here been giving intellectual answers to intellectual questions. I think those two things are important, but L’Abri cannot be explained if you remove the third. And that is there has been some com-munity here. And it has been costly.
In about the first three years of L’Abri all our wedding presents were wiped out. Our sheets were torn. Holes were burned in our rugs. Indeed once a whole curtain almost burned up from somebody smoking in our living room. Everybody came to our table. Blacks came to our table. Orientals came to our table. Everybody came to our table. It couldn’t happen any other way. Drugs came to our place. People vomited in the our rooms, in the rooms of Chalet Les Melezes which was our home, and now in the rest of the chalets at L’Abri.
How many times has this happened to you? You see, you don’t need a big program. You don’t have to convince your session or board. All you have to do is open your home and begin. And there is no place in God’s world where there are no people who will come and share a home as long as it is a real home.
First Steps Toward Philoxenia
Where should we begin? I want to give you some simple steps you can do today. Here are four ways you can begin practicing hospitality right now:
1. Go out of your way to meet five new people today. Every Sunday we have dozens of visitors to our services. Will you take some time to meet them? But it doesn’t have to be just the visitors. You can say hello to people you’ve seen before but haven’t met. That’s a simple step but it is so important. Hospitality begins by being willing to meet people you haven’t met before.
2. Talk to some of our international students. We have a lot of them here at Calvary. Some are from Cambodia, some from Japan, some from Africa, some are from Europe. They are in the Chicago area studying for a few months or a few years. Eventually they will be going back to their own countries.
But each Sunday they come to Calvary. What a marvelous opportunity to show biblical hospitality. They are truly “strangers” to us. We don’t know them and they don’t know us. But here they are. We pass each other in the hallways like ships passing at night. Will you care enough to get to know someone from the other side of the world?
3. Invite someone to your home. They don’t have to come today, but why don’t you issue an invitation for someone to come to your home this week or the week after that. Invite them over for ice cream or for hamburgers. After all, it’s biblical for Christians to eat together.
4. Call someone you haven’t talked to in a long, long time. It could be an old friend you haven’t called in years. It may be someone who used to be a close friend but somehow you’ve lost touch with each other. It might be someone you need to call in order to clear up some past misunderstandings. It could be a mother, a father, a brother or a sister, a hometown friend, or someone else whose name comes to mind.
The Original Xenophiliac
As you know, I entitled this sermon “Confessions of a Xenophiliac.” I began with a confession and now I end with one. There is no such word as xenophiliac. I just made it up by switching around philoxenia, the actual Greek word for hospitality. But I like xenophiliac because it sounds like it ought to be a word even if it’s not.
Just before the first service this morning the pastoral staff was praying in my office. When Bill Miller’s turn came, he said something like this: “O God, we thank you that you are the original xenophiliac.”
At first it sounded odd. And then in a flash it hit me. It’s true. God is the original “lover of strangers.” For while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. While we were estranged from God, he sent his Son to the earth. And we who were once strangers and aliens on the earth have now been brought near to God by the blood of Jesus Christ.
We are no longer strangers, no longer aliens, no longer orphans, no longer far away from God. We are now as near to God as his own Son is, for through the blood of Jesus we are brought into his family. Because he loved us when we were strangers, we are strangers no more.
Hospitality Pays Off In The End
That same thing happens today when we show hospitality to others. We are only doing for others what God did for us. And in the end we won’t be disappointed. Consider these words of Jesus:
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory… . He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left… . Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. 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 took me in.”
The righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in?”
The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.” (Matthew 25:31, 33, 34-35, 37-38, 40)
That’s the bottom line. When you open your home to strangers, you are opening your home to the Lord Jesus. When you welcome them, you welcome him.
No one will ever be sorry they opened their home. No one will ever be sorry they said, “Come on in and have a meal with us.” No one will ever be sorry they put up with the inconvenience. No one will ever say, “I wish I hadn’t helped those people.”
Hospitality has its rewards, both now and in the world to come.
Who’s that knocking at your door? It might be Jesus.