iRelate - Making the Choice to Commit to Community - Week Four
Rod MacIlvaine 09/30/2012 (1240) Final Rev.
Hospitality, Community and Healing
This is week four in our series called iRelate, and today we're going to talk
about community and the practice of hospitality.
Several weeks ago Harvard Business Review presented an article entitled, "Love,
Trust and Candor: Today's Management Priorities." It was written by Jordan
Cohen, and the point of the article was this: Success in the marketplace these
is based on creating environments of trust.
Mr. Cohen gave some very interesting specifics in his article.
For starters he cites John Mackey of Whole Foods. Mackey said this about their
grocery chain: "[People need to find] friendship, love and community in the
workplace." Seriously…Love in the Workplace!
I thought about that as I reflected on my experience at Whole Foods. Cindy and I
go there at least twice a month in Tulsa, and we love the place. I've told her
many times, "I'm blown away that everyone at Whole Foods seems to love their job
and be committed to the same vision."
Mackey says that friendship and love are the key.
Or, take the online shoe store Zappos. Tony Hsieh ("Shy") is the CEO, and he's
created a corporate culture that is high on transparency and trust. He says, "We
function best [in our company] when we can be ourselves." So at Zappos, people
aren't trying to manage appearances. No one's trying manipulate people or power
up. Zappos has a culture of authenticity.
And then Cohen described his own management consulting service. He recently
equipped an entire department in principles of building safe environments…places
of loving-trust. He said that result was amazing: In short order the department
shifted to a culture of engaged participation.
What does all this mean for us?
In my opinion, this means we have an amazing opportunity.
Words like love and community are hot topics in management literature…right now.
Some of these articles almost sound biblical. One article in a secular
management magazine said this (quote): "You show love, in organizations, in four
ways: It's got to be unconditional (they even used the word agape). It's got to
be tangible, willing to suffer and authentic."
You could have taken those four points from 1 Corinthians 13.
What this means for you is that, as a Christ-follower, you have a common ground
with the world. These values, which secular leadership literature just now is
championing, come from an ancient source. That ancient source is biblical
And you have been supernaturally empowered through the Spirit to show these
traits like love, trust, candor, authenticity and so on. They're called the
fruit of the Spirit. Through the filling of the Spirit you have an edge-up in
showing some of these values.
And you can do this in a way that is relevant to your workplace or any other
place you happen to be.
Now, this morning, I want to propose that these ideas of love, acceptance and
authenticity - so prevalent in literature today - are logical extensions of the
biblical value of hospitality.
If the world is applying this in secular settings, then I think we'd better step
up our game and excel at these things for kingdom reasons.
This morning I want to describe the biblical value of hospitality, and I want to
show you how you can apply these as a way of expressing Christ into your world.
Let's start with the biblical concept of hospitality.
1. BIBLICAL - Hospitality in the ancient world was crucial to survival. And it
is modeled throughout the Bible.
A. I'll begin by defining it.
FIRST PETER 4:9 SAYS, "Show hospitality to one another without grumbling." And
in this brief sentence Peter informs us that hospitality is a culture that we
are commanded to create around us. Why do I say it's a culture?
Peter describes hospitality as a one-another responsibility. There are over
forty one-another verses in the Bible, and taken together, they describe godly
cultures that we are commanded to create as we establish community.
Peter also makes it clear that hospitality is something we've got to be
proactive about. Peter's command reveals that this activity is going to take
intentionality and work.
It's going to take work, because sometimes hospitality is going to be hard.
Sometimes, in our weaker moments, we might be tempted to grumble.
So what exactly is hospitality?
The GREEK TERM is philo*zenia. It's a compound word: philo meaning love and
zenos meaning stranger. So to show hospitality means that you show brotherly
kindness to strangers. Other Greek words in the New Testament expand on this
notion. One word means to receive strangers (as in receiving them into your
The ENGLISH TERM hospitality comes from the Latin word hospes which means host.
And this word probably sounds familiar because it forms the root to words like,
hospice, hospital, hostel and hotel.
When you combine the biblical terms with the English terms we can say this:
Hospitality is the act of receiving people into our presence
showing kindness, grace and love…
even offering assistance where there is need.
HOSPITALITY IN THE BIBLE DEFINITELY IMPLIED A HELPING RELATIONSHIP: In other
words, a hospitality situation, you typically find that someone with resources
is extending himself toward someone who has needs.
And this can occur in a thousand different variations.
When I was in college I had a remarkable hospitality encounter. I was taking a
train from London to Cambridge to visit my cousin. I boarded the train and
King's Cross, and when I entered my particular compartment the only person there
was a woman in her 60s. Within a few minutes we started talking.
And it turned out that she had been good friends with my pastor from Milwaukee
and his wife. (My pastor was from the Lake District of England.) It also turns
out we knew many of the same people in Milwaukee. And we'd read many of the same
books, beginning with C.S. Lewis.
So within moments, the atmosphere in that compartment changed. Here she was in
her mid-60s and me in my early-20s. But she saw herself as a believer priest
with a committed college student, and she assumed the role of host. She asked me
about my relationship with Christ. She asked about future plans. She encouraged
me in my faith.
This was not her home. It wasn't her train.
Nevertheless, she saw herself as a believer-priest with something to offer. And
she was receiving me into her presence with intent to provide spiritual
encouragement. Thirty-five years later I still have her name written in the book
I was reading at the time.
So, hospitality is a fundamental attitude that you bring into any situation:
work, home, recreation, even traveling on a train.
Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert…outgoing or shy…talkative or
quiet…you can bring an hospitable attitude into any situation.
You can bring it into a hospital as a nurse. You can bring it onto your
shop-floor as a small business owner. You can bring it into your department
within a corporation.
This attitude is portable: it goes with you wherever you go, so that your
presence brings a culture of honor.
B. Now, let's see how this concept of hospitality developed in the Old
Testament. I want to give you two examples.
THE FIRST IS PSALM 23:5. Psalm 23 gives us a window into hospitality in ancient
cultures. Psalm 23:5…
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
In this verse, David describes, in poetic form, the ancient law of hospitality.
Imagine that you are traveling alone with your family in the year 1000 B.C.
Along with you is your spouse, your three small children, and your two donkeys.
You're making about 12 miles per day.
On the morning of the fifth day, you crest a hill and see sinister looking men
riding mules. They point your way. And kicking their mules, they head your
direction. You know you're in trouble. So you scoop up your kids and run.
Suddenly, over the next hill you see, off in the distance, a cluster of tents.
These are large tents made of black goat hair. It's a nomadic settlement. As you
race toward the nearest tent, the patriarch of the family is sitting at the
entrance shielding himself from the noonday sun. You make a beeline for that
tent, racing with all your might.
At the same time, the man in the tent sees your pursuers and knows right away
what his obligation is. Because of the law of hospitality, he must protect you
from your adversaries.
These laws required people to welcome travelers as friends, to keep them for up
to three days, and when the three days were up, he was required to send you on
your way with provisions.
Of course, there were no hospitality police back then enforcing this practice,
but everyone did it because they knew that one day they might be on the
receiving end of an act of hospitality.
Once the family enters the host's tent, the whole community would act, in
solidarity, to protect them. The host would set up a table, provide a meal, and
create shelter from the sun. That's why David says, "You prepare a table for me
in the presence of my enemies."
Once a person received that hospitality meal, his family was bound to the host
family with very strong friendship ties that extended down several generations.
Those were the laws of hospitality.
Now you ask, "Why wouldn't the enemies just crash through the tent and kill
everyone?" The laws of hospitality were so strong, that they were even respected
by the bad guys…maybe not all the time…but most of the time.
WE SEE ANOTHER EXAMPLE WITH ABRAHAM IN GENESIS 18:1. "And the LORD appeared to
him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the
[Abraham] lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in
front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed
himself to the earth and said, "O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do
not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and
rest yourselves under the tree, while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may
refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on."
Now, I just want you to see how Abraham responds when strangers show up.
• First, Abraham runs to meet them. This is how you would respond to strangers
when they showed up. You were proactive: Maybe they were about to die of thirst.
Maybe they were sick. Maybe they were being pursued by enemies. You ran to greet
• Notice that that Abraham is prepared personally to wash their feet. Abraham
then personally prepares the meal. Even though he had dozens of people who could
have worked for him, he took the lead in serving.
Hospitality was considered a tremendous privilege in the ancient world.
Now, even though the Bible champions hospitality for theological reasons, this
practice was extensive in the ancient world. It didn't matter if you were Jew or
Gentile…Christian or non-Christian. Hospitality was considered a fundamental
human need, because receiving hospitality was often a matter of life and death.
THIS ANCIENT FORM OF HOSPITALITY IS STILL BEING PRACTICED TODAY IN SOME PARTS OF
THE WORLD. In the summer of 2005 a six man Navy Seal team did reconnaissance
high in the mountains near the Afghani-Pakistan border. Suddenly, they came
under fierce attack from the Taliban.
Five members of that Seal team were killed, but Marcus Luttrell survived. With
three cracked vertebrae and with shrapnel injuries to his leg, he somehow
traversed seven miles, only to then fall from a ledge near a village.
He was discovered by a shepherd named Gulab. Luttrell thought he would be
immediately killed, but Gulab and his tribe were governed by the laws of
hospitality. Gulab and his companions, carried Luttrell to the village of
Sabray-Mina, and for the next week, the villagers provided food, shelter and
medical attention. They protected him from the Taliban.
Now why did these Afghan villagers do this?
They were bound by laws of hospitality, and this included risking their lives to
shelter an American soldier fighting on their soil.
WHAT DO WE LEARN FROM THIS? The act of hospitality is an essential human
tradition born out of our need for survival.
• The Hebrews practiced for theological reasons based on their worldview and
their love for God. They saw God as the ultimate host.
• Many other cultures practice this as well, not for theological reasons, but
for practical reasons. This is rooted in our common humanity.
So should we be surprised when the American business community recognizes that
traits of hospitality are sound management principles? No, this was consistent
with the ancient traditions of hospitality.
Now, let's move to the New Testament teaching on hospitality. When we come into
the New Testament, hospitality takes on a far more focused idea.
C. Hospitality in the New Testament is spiritual discipline that includes five
traits. Perhaps there are more, but these are the essential five.
BEFORE I TELL YOU THESE TRAITS, I need to show you how we need contextualize
hospitality to this modern world that we live in.
In ancient times, hospitality was connected to the basics - food, shelter and
clothing. We don't live in that kind of world any more. Most people in the West
have reasonable food, shelter and clothing…not to mention cell phones…wide
screen TVs and many other things.
Therefore, we need to contextualize the biblical notion of hospitality, and
here's how we do it.
Hospitality is a predisposition to show honor, dignity, and unconditional regard
in whatever situation we find ourselves in,
and then we offer the right assistance.
So, let's look at these five core traits that we can contextualize to our
FIRST TRAIT - IN OUR OVERALL MINDSET, WE SHOULD ENGAGE IN HOSPITALITY FOR
KINGDOM REASONS, BECAUSE WE ARE BELIEVER-PRIESTS. When you begin your day, you
should sense that you are a believer-priest, empowered to represent the risen
Christ by showing honor and regard to people.
Here's what Jesus says, Luke 14:12-14: "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do
not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors,
lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a
feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be
blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the
resurrection of the just."
What's the essential message of this parable? This is a parable about your
attitude when it comes to relationships. Our attitude, as kingdom minded people,
is humble hospitality.
If you're only hospitable with cool people and hip people…people who can then
make you feel cool and hip in return, your focus is not on Jesus and his
kingdom. Your focus is on you.
The right focus is unconditional esteem for all people we meet, so that your
presence is a zone of hospitality, regardless of a person's station in life.
When you go throughout the day, you're going to be with people who are in
different places in life. Some will be poorer than you. Some will be younger
than you. Some will be disadvantaged. Some may be less educated. Are you going
to treat them differently based on how you can gain advantage?
Jesus says, "No." I want you to reach out to people who can't pay you back.
People who are crippled, and lame and blind tend to be the hidden people of
And it's easy to turn our heads and put them out of our minds. Jesus says,
"Don't do that. Your hospitality needs to be humble, and that means you notice
people who are hurting. You intentionally reach out to them with kindness and
assistance…as a lifestyle.
SECOND TRAIT - HOSPITALITY IS A TRAIT YOU CAN PRACTICE ANYWHERE YOU SEE A NEED
THAT YOU CAN MEET. Luke 10:30-37 gives us the famous parable of the Good
Samaritan. You know the story: a Jewish man takes the 17 mile trip from
Jerusalem to Jericho. He's beaten up. Two religious guys march by and see a
mangled body. They do nothing.
Then comes the Samaritan. He is of a different race. In reality, he might as
well be from a foreign country, since he's from Samaria…not Israel. And yet,
when he arrives on the scene, and he sees the blood and the suffering, he acts
as the host. He gives him first aid. He gets him shelter and food.
When Jesus explains the parable, Jesus calls this man a neighbor. The guy is on
foreign soil. No matter, he's taking responsibility and he's showing
hospitality, as if he's a host, as if it's his road, and later is if it's his
These days, in our culture, most of our time is spent outside the home.
Therefore, hospitality is a trait we must learn to manifest outside the home,
especially in the workplace. Apparently, a growing number of business journals,
and bloggers and writers would agree.
Here's trait number three.
THIRD TRAIT - WHEN WE PRACTICE HOSPITALITY, IT IS AS IF WE MINISTER DIRECTLY TO
JESUS. There may be times that you have to show hospitality to people you don't
naturally like. Maybe they have habits that don't mesh with your habits. Perhaps
their personalities are different than yours. Perhaps their cultural background
is different than what you experienced growing up. It's not always easy to show
So, what motivates you to continue to show it, even when it's a sacrifice?
Just remember that when you show hospitality, it is as if you are ministering to
Listen to what Jesus says in Matt. 25:31-46: For I was hungry and you gave me
food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison
and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did
we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see
you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you
sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say
to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to
If you tangibly serve even the least worthy person in the kingdom, it is as if
you did it to Jesus.
I don't care who you touch with humble hospitality. It could be a child who
won't even remember your service. It could be someone sick and dying. It could
be someone who can never return the favor. Your hospitality must have faith to
see the eternal significance.
You're not simply ministering to that person. In reality, you're ministering to
the risen Christ who sits at the right hand of God. That ought to fire us up to
show hospitality widely, and with great commitment. Every bit of hospitality you
show has eternal influence.
FOURTH TRAIT - WHEN WE PRACTICE HOSPITALITY, WE INVITE THE SUPERNATURAL. Listen
to what the writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 13:2: "Do not neglect to show
hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." On
the one hand, this verse clearly is a clear reference to the chapter we just
read: Genesis 18. Abraham entertained two angelic beings, and the third was the
pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. So, yes, Abraham entertained angels. But in reality,
Abraham was aware that they were angels.
But on the other hand, Hebrews 13:2 suggests that 1st century Christians were
actually experiencing angelic visitations in the first century, as they were
practicing the gift of hospitality.
Perhaps these angelic visitations came because someone in the house was in
trouble. Perhaps these angelic visitations came to bless the occupants of the
house, or to protect them for spiritual warfare. I wish we had more information;
But broader principle is this: When you show hospitality, you create an
opportunity for God to work supernaturally in your life. Your hospitality
creates an environment in which God can do, in the supernatural, way beyond what
you could ever do in the natural.
My friend Jim Nyhof is an example of this. Jim and Debbie moved to Idaho this
past August. Jim is going to resume his homebuilding business there. But Jim
takes with him his remarkable gift of hospitality. Anyone who has been in Jim's
presence feels right at home, wherever you are.
Jim has told me dozens of stories in which God used him to minister to someone,
right in the moment. And why did it happen? Jim had the presence of mind to
smile at someone, to ask an open ended question, and then give a word of
And within moments, they are in a serious spiritual conversation. Jim used to
call me and tell me remarkable stories of people he led to Christ, just through
I've learned a lot from watching Jim.
Here's a fifth trait.
FIFTH TRAIT - JAMES COMMANDS US TO PRACTICE HOSPITALITY IN THE LOCAL CHURCH WITH
PEOPLE, IRRESPECTIVE OF THEIR SOCIAL STATUS. In James 2, James presents a common
scenario in the ancient world: two people come into a house-church, one rich…the
Now we have a problem: There aren't enough seats. To whom do you give
preference? The natural human response is to give preference to the rich guy,
because the rich guy might lift me up to his status. The rich guy might make a
big contribution to the church. The rich guy might give me some perk.
James says, "Don't do it!" Authentic Christian hospitality treats everyone with
the same sense of dignity. It doesn't matter if you're rich or poor, beautiful
or ordinary, intelligent or normal, high class or common. Everyone is made in
God's image, everyone deserves to be treated with the same high level of honor
as an act of hospitality.
James' command couldn't be clearer: "My brothers and sisters, you are believers
in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. So treat everyone the same" (NIV Reader's
Now there are more traits in the New Testament, but those are the five
D. So here's the bottom line:
In the ancient world hospitality was primarily based on how you used your home.
We don't live in the ancient world. In 21st century America people don't tend to
be at home all that much. So we have to contextualize hospitality. We need to
bring the attitude of hospitality into the world, and the foundational idea is
• Expressing biblical hospitality means accepting the reality that you're a
believer-priest with spiritual influence.
• And then, you proactively show tangible kindness and honor those whom you
And shock of all shocks…today in the business world…this is hot stuff!
This is trendy.
Soft values like love, community, unconditional regard, and authenticity are the
subjects of serious study at Harvard and Wharton and the UT business school.
Let's turn from a biblical understanding of hospitality, and I want to give you
2. 1ST APPLICATION - As Christians, we need to be creative about applying
hospitality with people who are suffering with physical illnesses.
A. I want to start by talking about hospitality and healthcare.
The parable of the Good Samaritan connects hospitality and healthcare. That
parable had a profound influence in the development of nursing and medicine in
Europe and America. But it's also having that same profound influence on
medicine and healing prayer in the developing world. Jesus' parable has so
deeply touched our culture we can't image a world without that value.
IT CONTINUES TO HAVE AN INFLUENCE ON HOW WE THINK ABOUT PRAYER AND ITS RELATION
TO MEDICINE. This past month an article came out in the Journal of the American
Medical Association with this title: Factors Important to Patients' Quality of
Life at the End of Life.
Their conclusion was that five factors led to quality of life at the end of
life. Three of the five were linked to relationships at the end of life. But
factor number four was that they had a pastor (or spiritual leader) come to
visit them in the days just before they died…someone who could host the presence
of God for them in the days just before their passing.
For the past 18 months Walter Pettiford has led our ministry to men and women in
nursing care facilities here in Bartlesville. I can tell you from having
participated with him in this ministry that Walter is an outstanding preacher.
But Walter has another gift.
When Walter is in those nursing facilities Walter presents an atmosphere of
hospitality. I've had people tell me that Walter was the only one who
consistently visited their dying relative when they face the end of their days.
Medical research suggests this significantly enhances quality of life at the end
When people like Walter model the kindness and the presence of God, he is acting
Sometimes, along with Walter, the girls from Sequoyah Girls Home minister with
our music team. These girls offer tremendous kindness. Does this sort of
ministry make a difference?
Harold Koenig who a geriatric psychiatrist is emphatic about this: this sort of
ministry increases quality of life and actually prolongs life.
B. Studies like the one from the Journal of the American Medical Association
tell us that there are opportunities to minister more intentionally in this
There is a trend right now that is merging healthcare with hospitality.
Universities like Cornell are studying how the healthcare industry can join with
the hospitality industry to help people who travel to specialty hospitals.
When people suffer serious illness and they need to go to specialty hospitals in
distant cities…they sometimes have to stay for a long periods. Where is the
family going to stay? More and more hospitals realize that patients do better if
families can live within walking distance.
This is great in theory, but reality is that many people can't afford the nearby
hotel. And sometimes the hotels adjacent to the hospital are unavailable.
So the body of Christ steps in.
In 1984 my dad had a major surgery. The specialist he needed to see was in
Minneapolis. A very close friend of mine from college lived close to the
hospital. My mother and father stayed there the night before his surgery, and my
mother stayed there during my dad's recovery. That act of hospitality was
profound for my parents.
Whenever we can connect hospitality and care for people who are sick, we are
doing something that has been a major work of the church for the past 2,000
years, and we're doing something that medical science says makes a tangible
difference in recovery from illness. People need to be honored especially in
their darkest moments.
When we apply hospitality toward those who suffer, we model the gracious
hospitality of the God of the Universe.
3. 2ND APPLICATION - Let's try to weave the attitude of hospitality into the
normal affairs of life.
A. When you begin your day…
Ask God to give you his heart for the people you meet.
Ask him for divine appointments. Maybe God will bring someone your way for whom
you can be a believer priest and bring some encouragement.
When you adopt a basic mindset of hospitality, in the moment, you have the
presence of mind to recognize divine appointments.
Confront wrong attitudes when you don't want to be hospitable. Look, we're all
fallen. Sometimes, we have feelings of contempt toward people. Sometimes we just
want to be left alone. Sometimes we're in a haughty prideful place. The last
thing we're thinking about is humble hospitality. So we have to confront wrong
attitudes. And seek the fullness of the Spirit to manifest biblical hospitality.
Here's something else you can do. You can smile, and while you're smiling, use
affirming words. It's a small thing. But many studies have been done on the
psychological effects of a smiling face and the openness in a relationship.
Some of these studies have been done with infants and parents, particularly
mothers. Others have been done with adults. People who offer smiles are
perceived as being more open, generous and affirming. The smile facilitates the
perception that you are open, honoring…generous.
Look for opportunities to connect hospitality and prayer. I've learned to ask
people if I can pray for them on the spot and over the phone. Look, these days,
prayer is in. If you ask someone if you can pray for them, right there, on the
spot, chances are they'll say yes. Well…what have you done? You've just
connected hospitality with God's gracious presence.
Those are just ideas for how to weave hospitality into your day.
B. Next, I want to encourage you to apply hospitality when you come to Grace on
a Sunday morning.
We have a greeter team. But in reality all of us should consider ourselves on
the greeter team. When you see someone you don't know, I just want to urge you
to make contact. Ask them how long they've been coming. Ask they if they're in a
small group. Please consider yourself commissioned to be a greeter at large at
I would love for us to be known for our genuine hospitality. And perhaps the
hospitality people experience here will be an example that people can take into
their jobs and into their neighborhoods.
C. One more application: God has burdened some people in our church to show
hospitality and kindness to certain groups of people in our city. Join with
We have a group that is forming a hospice home here in our city. Some members of
Grace have been instrumental in establishing this.
We have several groups at Grace that are going into the new jail. One group is
teaching the female prisoners how they might raise their children once they get
out of jail. This has been a tremendous ministry that is deeply touching the
prisoners. Another group is taking the principles of recovery into the jail.
We have another group ministering to unwed mothers.
I just want to encourage you to ask God, "Lord, is there a group of people in
this city that you have given me a burden for?
Lord, show me how I might get involved in showing generous hospitality to that
Hospitality is an ancient tradition. And in ancient times, hospitality was based
upon your home and rooted in survival.
We don't live in ancient times. We spend most of our days away from home. So we
need to take the attitude of hospitality with us on the road, just like the Good
The gift is portable and applicable to any situation in which you find yourself.
As we close, I'd like to have a time of silence, and I'd like for you to ask God
to speak to you: "Lord, how are you leading me to weave hospitality into the
fabric of my life?"