This is a presentation from LDC 2014. To learn more about the LDC, please visit LDC.io
One of the descriptions that Luke uses for the methodology of Jesus’ ministry is found in Luke 7:34: “…The Son of Man came eating and drinking.” Accompanying the stories of Jesus’ eating with people are a number of significant events and teachings. If we want to follow Jesus’ method of discipleship of investing deeply into the lives of people, we should also note His practice of hospitality. Not only is the model found in Jesus’ life, but the requirements of church leaders include being hospitable. The practice of hospitality is normative for following Jesus and can be seen in Scriptures such as Hebrews 13:2 and Romans 12:13.
In this seminar, we explore what Biblical hospitality looks like and how it can be a natural part of a leader’s life in making disciples. Western Christians especially need to learn from brothers and sisters around the world about how biblical hospitality can be practiced. As the world becomes more urbanized, and as demands on leaders increase, it is easy to let the practice of hospitality become occasional rather than a lifestyle.
Let’s explore together how we can be sure to follow Jesus’ pattern and be obedient to God’s call for us as leaders to be hospitable as we make disciples of all nations.
Thank you for coming. My name is Rich Mendola and I work in a ministry to international students. I lead a ministry called International Friendships, based in Columbus, Ohio. It has ministries in nine states and 24 campuses. I’ll share a little bit about that in the context of hospitality. But let me begin by showing a video, because one of the things that I upfront want to tell you is that in the process of discipleship, we’re looking for life transformation – both for leaders and then, the people who are being influenced by leaders. Discipleship involves life transformation. What I’m going to be sharing with you is that one of the best contexts and means for life transformation is through hospitality. So I’m going to be asking you to think about, in your own life, where that may have taken place for you, where something happened in the context of hospitality that made a significant difference in your life.
In order to get us started with this, and to stimulate you, I’m going to show you a video clip from a very well known movie. It’s a short clip, but for those of you who know the story, it is so powerful to illustrate the way that hospitality can involve life transformation. If you know the story, he did steal, and then he was caught, and then he was shown grace and forgiveness, and that became the turning point of his life.
What I’d like you to do around your table is to share a time where life transformation took place for you in the context of being welcomed in around a meal. It could be a significant decision that you made; it could be a reconciliation that took place; it could be a lesson that you learned at that time through observation or discussion; but something significant took place in your life in the context of being with someone in their home, either during the meal or after the meal. So go ahead and share an experience where enjoying a meal with someone turned into a significant time of transformation.
This verse in Hebrews 13:2, which is an encouragement for us to practice hospitality, to not neglect the practice of hospitality, tells us that it refers to the experience of Abraham back in Genesis 18. As a result of him welcoming the strangers into his home – who turned out to be angels or the Lord himself – there was a very powerful experience that Abraham had with God. We are encouraged to practice hospitality because of that example, and because of the potential and possibilities that exist for us to encounter God in a fresh and powerful way. In fact, God has written in his Word the stories of hospitality in a way that often have dramatic outcomes. It’s not just the story of Abraham where this takes place. We see the stories like the Shunnamite woman, who invited Elijah into her home – actually built a little room in order that Elijah would have a place to stay when he was on his travels. And then as a result of that, God supernaturally gave her a son though she had been barren, and God spoke through Elijah the word where she’d be able to have that son. Afterwards, the son became ill, died, and there was a resurrection that actually took place. That was a very powerful thing that happened because of hospitality.
There’s the story of the widow of Zeraphath, who was instructed by God to provide for Elijah. We know that she was down to her last meal, and she told Elijah, “You know, what I was planning to do was eat this last meal and then we’re going to die.” And Elijah said, “No. Trust God. Share the meal with me and God is going to provide.” You know, that would make bad headlines today! “Evangelist asks for a widow’s last meal.” But she did, she provided – and God provided in a miraculous supernatural way an ongoing supply so that the food never ran out. We can look at other stories in the Scripture where transformation was taking place. There were powerful things that were taking place through those experiences as a result of people opening up their lives and opening up their homes to invite others in and share what they had with them.
Let me tell you a simple definition of hospitality: hospitality is sharing who you are and what you have for the benefit and inclusion of strangers. There could be a lot of different ways of defining it, but those elements of sharing yourself, your life, sharing what you have, particularly food and drink and doing it for the benefit of others, for their refreshment, their encouragement – that’s what hospitality is about. So we’ll talk a little bit more about that.
There are three statements in the New Testament that begin with the expression: “The Son of Man came.” And we see them here, listed. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” And “The Son of Man came eating and drinking.” Very interesting, those three expressions. The first two are very clear statements of purpose: why Jesus came, what the purpose of His coming was. The third one – how does the third one fit in? Well, the third one seems to be an indication of how He came – the methodology by which He came. We see this found in the Book of Luke –Luke makes the statement under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to describe Jesus in these terms, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking.” I think the interesting thing is if you look in the Book of Luke, one of the ways of studying the it is to see the place of meals in the Book of Luke, and how significant they are in Jesus’ ministry. If you go through the Book of Luke, you see that one person put it this way: either Jesus is on His way to a meal, He’s eating a meal, or He’s after the meal. In Luke 5, He eats with tax collectors and sinners in the home of Levi. And some significant stuff takes place in that context. Luke 7 is the place where Jesus is at a meal with Pharisees and is anointed by a sinful woman. Luke 9, Jesus feeds the 5,000. Luke 10, Jesus is in the home of Martha and Mary and a meal is getting prepared. Luke 11, Jesus speaks to the problem of the Pharisees during a meal. Luke 14, Jesus teaches about the kingdom of God as hospitality. And He does that while He’s at a meal. In Luke 19, Jesus invites Himself to a meal. When He says to Zacchaeus, “I’m coming to your house today to eat,” He demonstrates what salvation looks like in the context of that meal. Luke 22, Jesus takes a common meal and a spiritual meal and uses them to teach about the meaning of His death at the Last Supper. Luke 24, after the resurrection, Jesus eats a meal with two of His disciples after the walk on the road to Emmaus, which of course becomes a very significant encounter for them to recognize Christ. Then later on, He eats a meal with His disciples in Jerusalem.
In fact, Jesus likes to eat! Let’s take a look at it here, in Luke 7:34, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’” From the Pharisees’ standpoint, Jesus was excessive in the way that he ate and drank, so they called Him a glutton and a drunkard. I don’t think this is an accurate description of the Lord Jesus Christ, but it gives us an insight into the fact that He was doing this so often and so much that they would make this accusation. And in fact, the issue of eating in the life of Jesus becomes a huge issue about both clean and unclean, why his disciples don’t wash their hands before they eat … they’re talking about food a lot. Here Jesus is referred to in these terms because I think the act of Jesus eating together, particularly with sinners of course, shows the excessiveness of God’s grace. That it just is so much, so overflowing, that from a perspective of someone who is a Pharisee, it looks like someone who is a glutton and a drunkard. We’ll see that the meals of Jesus do reflect therefore the character of God; they reflect the kingdom of God, they’re something significant; it’s not just about eating and drinking food, as much as that’s enjoyable. It’s about picturing something; it’s about demonstrating something, and Jesus is using this as His context for impacting people’s lives.
This is pretty simple stuff. By the way, I’m a simple guy, so if you’re looking for something profound, I’m probably going to disappoint you. But I would say this, that since in the ministry of Jesus, if you can see this, if you can understand that the methodology of Jesus’ discipleship involved eating and drinking, then obviously the question that we have to ask ourselves is how do we incorporate a lifestyle of hospitality into our discipleship – both of leaders and of others. And I say “of leaders” because it was at these meals that Jesus had His disciples with Him, and they could see the interaction that was taking place. They could see the types of things that were going on that would be instructive of the things that Jesus wanted to teach them.
So let’s look at these questions. Let’s look at these aspects. Who we eat with deals with our mission. How often we eat with others reveals our priorities. How long our meals last will say a lot about our lifestyle. How we eat is a part of discipleship, and where we eat says something about the integration of our life. Okay, so – now you say, “Is hospitality just about eating?” No, of course not! It’s about making space, welcoming people into our lives. It’s sharing our very lives with people. But in the Scripture, hospitality is linked together with food and drink. It’s a vital component of the welcome. It’s a vital component of the friendship, of the companionship. You can do life without food, but it seems as though God designed us in a way that there’s a lot involved with food as a picture of our relationship with God, that the very act of eating food is a celebration of His goodness; it is an aspect of the way that our relationships are formed. So we cannot devalue it in the sense that it’s unimportant for our mission.
So let’s talk more about this. I’m going to deal with each of these. By the way, here I mention in my little abstract on this that as it pertains to leadership, what we need to understand is that when we look at what the requirements are of leaders, what is God looking for in the lifestyle of a leader? What does it look like to be a leader in the kingdom of God? When the list was given for leaders in the church, in each of those lists is the word “hospitable;” an elder, a leader must be hospitable. In other words, it was a requirement for leadership in the church that the lifestyle of someone who wanted to demonstrate to others what it looked like to follow Jesus would have normative as part of their life this practice of welcoming others into their home and to their life to share together in meals. That is what it looks like for someone who’s following Jesus.
You know, I think that one of the realities is – part of the reason why this talk is even needed is because of the problems that exist in the western church. I think hospitality is partly cultural, and we know that other cultures have maintained some of the values that we see at the time of Abraham, that strangers should be invited in. Some of you come from cultures where the practice of hospitality is so natural and it’s so much a part of the lifestyle of your culture that even this talk is a little bit strange to you. I know that I do training in churches for American Christians to teach them a little bit about hospitality so they can welcome international students into their homes. I brought a student from another country with me to help me out, and I said, “What’d you think?” Afterwards, he said, “This is really strange that you have to teach someone how to be hospitable.”
He said, “You really have to teach this?” I said, “Yeah, unfortunately, we have to do a little bit of teaching.” It was strange that this would even be a topic that would be talked about. And yet, I would say this too, that even in cultures where hospitality is woven into the lifestyle and it’s still a practice, since every culture is fallen, there’s aspects about hospitality that can go bad.
If you go to the Sudan, in many of the homes they just have extra beds that are there, assuming that people are going to come and stay over; that there’s always a place for them. And people can come and go and people can just show up unannounced and they’ll stay. Well, in that culture, you cannot say to someone that it’s time to leave. So they can stay as long as they want. Well, sometimes people stay a lot longer than would be appreciated. We’re talking about months. Like a family member could show up and they could be there for three months. So you say, “What’s wrong with that?” Well, sometimes the family member who’s coming is kind of taking advantage of the hospitality. You say, “Oh, wouldn’t you want your family member with you?” Well, maybe not every family member for that long. So hospitality can be used and abused, and it has challenges in each culture.
Let’s deal with this first question, or first statement: who we eat with deals with our mission. You noticed in Luke 7 the statement about Jesus, that the Son of Man came eating and drinking and you say he’s a glutton and a drunkard; He eats with sinners. So the focus for the Pharisees on Jesus was the problem of who He ate with. The Pharisees understood that the kingdom of God was pictured as a feast. The only issue was who was going to be at that feast. And Jesus was demonstrating to them when He was inviting the sinners to eat together that the kingdom of God and the grace of God was extending much farther than they anticipated, than they could conceive of, within their world view. One of the things that we need to understand about hospitality is that hospitality really involves outsiders. That’s why in Hebrews 13:2, when it was translated, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers,” we know that the word “stranger” and hospitality have to be linked, and we had to put the English into the expression in the Greek; it’s embedded. The word xenos, which is there, means “lover of strangers.” So the question is, who are the strangers?
Biblically, if we’re talking about strangers, the four Hebrew words for stranger, all refer to people moving from one culture to another. There, it’s very clear that we’re talking about not just people we don’t know well, or someone down the block, or someone in the village, or whoever; it has to be someone coming from outside the culture into the culture. That’s why these words are translated “alien,” “foreigner,” “sojourner,” or, I like to use the word “international.” These words have some specific meaning as to whether or not someone is temporarily going through, whether or not they have emigrated, what is their status. But they’re all referring to people away from home.
Now, I believe Jesus expanded on this concept of the stranger to include those that were the marginalized, those that were on the outside. Those were strangers in the sense of their needs. That’s why Jesus, when He was teaching about hospitality said, “When you have a party, don’t invite your friends. Invite the crippled, invited those that are poor, invite those who are on the outside.” So when we’re practicing hospitality, one of the things we’re demonstrating is the mission of God to extend God’s grace to the outsider – to those that are outside the kingdom of God as well as those that are outside of our culture. When we invite people who are outside of our culture in, we’re demonstrating something about the kingdom of God and the love for the nations, and the inclusiveness of God’s kingdom, and the fact that God’s grace is going to all people. That is a very powerful message. We can talk about that message, but when we invite people in who are from the nations, who are on the outside, who are the marginalized, there’s a very amazing and powerful message of God’s grace in there. So that is what the Bible’s calling us to do.
I’d like to just share some stories with you for a moment. This is a picture of my friend Tae Yu. She came to study at The Ohio State University as a Ph.D. student. Her background was in Taiwan; she studied Buddhist philosophy. She had very little contact with Christians before she came to the United States. But when she arrived, she was met by a family from our ministry, who invited her to stay in their home for a few days while she was getting settled, adjusting to life in America. So she did; she accepted that invitation and went to their home. She says that the first meal they had in the home, they gathered around the table, and as the custom was in that family, they held hands and they prayed before the meal. The father in the home not only prayed for the food, but he began to pray for Tae Yu. He prayed very specifically about God helping her with her cultural adjustment and helping her not to feel lonely in the United States, and asking that God would help her in her life when she was here in America. She said that she was so taken by the prayer that something happened when he was praying. She said that at the end of that prayer, she said, “I would like to know more about this God who is being prayed to.” And so she made a decision around that table that she would begin to pursue knowing God. It was simple – it was the welcome, it was being invited into the home. It wasn’t that they were preaching, just that God was in that situation. She went on to join a Bible study group. She did come to know Christ and is now engaged in a full-time literature ministry to Mainland China. But it was hospitality; it was in that context around the table that God began to work.
This is a guy in the middle here; his name is Abdul. Abdul came to study in the United States from Afghanistan. He left his wife and children in Afghanistan when he came to study, and he was very lonely. Those of you who have moved from one culture to another know how challenging it can be in your initial adjustment. So Abdul was a Ph.D. student; he’d go to school, he’d come back home and study more and he did a lot of studying because he didn’t have much else to do besides trying to do well in school. So when a family invited him to their home for a meal, and to spend time together, he was so thrilled. Even though the family said to him, “You know, we go to church on Sunday. We’d like to have you for lunch after church, so would you come to church with us?” He was not interested in going to church, but he was really interested in having a meal. And – not for the food; he was interested in having the relationship. So he was willing to go to church in order to get that. That’s generally not the methodology that we like to encourage people to do in our ministry, to make it conditional to go to church to get a meal. But he went. Now they not only ate the meal but after the meal they spent hours together, talking. Just sharing about life in Afghanistan, talking about his family, taking out pictures, photo albums, just doing all the things of sharing life with one another. He said to me that that was the best day that he had in the United States, and it was the first day that he didn’t feel lonely. So when the family invited him to come back next week, they said, “Would you like to do this again next week?” He didn’t hesitate – he began to go to church every Sunday and go to their home for lunch and then spend the afternoon together. And they, of course, developed their relationship and eventually Abdul began to actually listen to the pastor. Through that, he heard things that he hadn’t heard before, and through the family’s life – seeing how they related to one another, seeing the relationship as a husband and wife, seeing the relationship with their children, spiritual conversations that occurred after the meal – God was working in Abdul’s heart. Then Abdul made this decision to follow Christ even though he had never met an Afghan believer in his life before. He said, “This is real. This is true.” And God has used Abdul; God used him in a wonderful way to re-translate the New Testament into his language, the Dari language, and work with the Far East Broadcasting Company to make tapes that went into Afghanistan – broadcasts. But it was hospitality again that became the door; it became the means of the mission of impacting the nations. And this is what God does in these contexts.
Let me share just one more story with you. This is a story of a friend that I have now in Columbus. Her name is Mung Tin; she comes from China. Mung Tin came to study. She had very little Christian exposure in China when she came, but she also was met by a family who welcomed her into their home. She happened to stay there for a couple weeks. And when she was staying in their home, they invited her to go to a concert – a Christian concert. At that concert, when an invitation was given for people who wanted to follow Christ, she responded. She came to my Bible discussion group the next week, after she’d been in the U.S. for two weeks, and we were having our discussion and introducing ourselves, and her introduction was, “I’m Mung Tin. I think I became a Christian.” So we talked about that – I said, “What do you mean you think you became a Christian?” And she said, “Well, I’m not sure if I followed the right procedure. I don’t know exactly what is the procedure to become a Christian.” So she shared her story, and I was asking her, “This means you must have had some exposure in China before you came, right?” She said, “No, I didn’t really know much about Jesus when I was in China. But being in that family’s home, and I already was in my heart searching for an answer, and already desiring to know God, even though I didn’t know who He was. So when I came and I heard the message and saw this family’s life, I wanted to follow Christ.” She now is the student leader for our fellowship on campus, and very actively sharing her faith. She’s grown up in the Lord. But it was hospitality that was the key.
So the first point about who we invite into our home will reveal something about our mission; if we only invite our friends and family, if it’s just the people that we’re normally with, our hospitality is not wide enough. Now, if we want to train leaders, then part of what Jesus was trying to do in the context of his hospitality was to expand the vision of his disciples, so they too would understand the extent of the mission. I think Jesus surprised them when he was having the encounter with the Samaritan woman. Jesus ate with all different types of people. And His disciples were there with Him. So it’s not just that we do hospitality. We do hospitality with the people that we’re developing as leaders as well. I’d love to share with you many other stories; this is my friend in the Sudan that I was mentioning I visit, and then a woman from China who came to Christ through hospitality, and a woman who’s now serving Christ in Japan. I would just love to tell you the stories of these people, and you probably have lots of stories yourself, hopefully.
Okay, so here’s the question: in your leadership training, where does hospitality fit in? How often do you include outsiders, foreigners, around your table? How is that incorporated into your life? If we are told Jesus came eating and drinking, and if we see that the kingdom of God is pictured in the nations being invited into our home, we’re supposed to be hospitable to strangers, then this is a question that we need to ask ourselves. How does that fit in?
Now it can look lots of different ways. It can be something that’s done spontaneously; in fact, in much of the world, you don’t have a type of planned hospitality. The type of hospitality that takes place that’s best is unplanned, like the three strangers going by Abraham’s house. He didn’t plan for that, but he was willing and ready and said “Come on in.” That attitude which is ready to receive and ready to be inconvenienced; it was the heat of the day for Abraham. You have other things on your agenda, other things you want to do, but those are the opportune times that you recognize. In a lot of cultures, that’s the way their hospitality is practiced – people just show up; they don’t make appointments, and we understand that that is a really helpful way of living our lives.
The second thing, though, is to have a style of hospitality where there’s a rhythm in your life. That can occur by having people live with you. Now in our lives, we have had periods of time where we’ve had international students who’ve lived in our home. They’ve been with us; we did that when we first got married; we had that when we had kids, and it was just a part of our life. We’re not in that season right now, but we’ve had times of that. Then there’s times when we used to commit a particular day a week. We’d say every Sunday, like that family I mentioned. Their pattern was on Sunday they would always have someone home or have Abdul home for lunch on Sundays. So, some people find it really helpful to say, “Okay, this is what I do. On Sundays or on Wednesdays or whatever night, that’s our hospitality night. Let’s just block it off in our schedule; let’s look for people that we can invite over on that night. Let’s be intentional, say, ‘Hey, can you come over?’” Now again, if that doesn’t work in your cultural context … you have to apply this to your own cultural context. But the idea of ahead of time, making space and room and being ready to use that time to invite people in is a lifestyle decision.
In fact, I think that we might ask the question: what would happen if as the pattern of our ministry that we had at least three or four meals a week with other people that we were including? And I don’t mean business meetings. That’s a little bit different. You have an agenda for the lunch, or after the lunch, and you’re done. That’s not what we’re talking about here.
How often we eat with others reveals our priorities. I was just talking about incorporating that as a lifestyle. The statistics for American life … again, I know for those of you who are here from other nations that this is going to be part of the poverty that you see of the American lifestyle. But there’s been a lot of research done on how often we eat together now, as an American society. And the reality is that it’s decreased a lot. We don’t spend a lot of time with meals. The next question is going to have to deal with how long our meals last. And let me put these two together for a moment. There have been a lot of studies on American life in terms of eating. Do you know what the average length is of a meal in America? I’m talking about how long the meal-eating lasts. It’s a little bit over 20 minutes.
The average length of meal preparation in America for the whole day is 30 minutes. That means for three meals, the average preparation is 30 minutes, the average eating time is about 24 minutes. So that means the amount of time we spend actually preparing and eating – of all the countries in the world – it’s the least. Okay, they’ve studied this, and that means Americans spend the least time preparing and eating food – which tells me that that’s a very low priority. We see food as kind of a fuel, something that we need to eat in order to keep going to do the other things that are important. We don’t want to waste time on eating. That’s why the fast food industry is very significant in America, because it is under the view of time as being efficiency; it’s not efficient to take a long time to eat.
Now Abraham, when he invited those guests in, it did not last a short time. In fact, they had to go kill the animal. They had to kill the animal, they had to prepare the animal, they had to cook the animal. That took a little while. In fact, that’s true in a lot of cultures; the amount of time in meal preparation is very large. When I was in India, I think the average length in India – we have 30 minutes – in India, the average time spent preparing and cleaning up for meals is six hours. That’s a huge difference. And so if you go to India, and you’re in someone’s home, the meal takes a long time. And if you are understanding that as opportunity time, that is a great time, then it’s really more along the lifestyle of Jesus, who came eating and drinking. How often we eat with others reveals our priorities.
So I want to ask this question: I want you to share right now, in terms of your life, what is the good rhythm that can work in your lifestyle – in your life, for developing a lifestyle of hospitality? Talk about what is your current practice? How often are you able to do it? And what do you think it would take if it’s not a regular part of your life – what would be the challenge for you to incorporate it as a regular part of your lifestyle? Now we’re getting down to personal disclosure, I guess, but maybe for the benefit of others around your table, why don’t you talk about how does this look in your life? What is the rhythm and the pattern of hospitality for you? How much is that part of what you do in spending time with people? Go ahead and share that for a minute. I want you to interact. This is a question that you’re going to answer coming out of this time together – thinking about the lifestyle question of how you can incorporate hospitality as a normal part of your lifestyle.
Let me say a little bit more about the length of time around a meal. Some cultures, the significant talking does not take place during the meal. So if you don’t have the after-the-meal time where you are just hanging out, you don’t get down to the significant stuff. I was reminded recently where a friend wanted to get together, and we decided to eat together, and I had an agenda. I had the rest of my day planned. And I thought we were done because the meal was done. But at the end of the meal, that was when he wanted to start to talk about some of the struggles he was having in his marriage. The time that we had then became very significant in terms of the issues that he was facing. And that – it messed up my schedule, but it was the opportune moment, and it came after the meal. In the story of Abraham, if you read that story in Genesis 18, Abraham is standing there while the guests are eating. He’s making sure to serve them the meal. That’s not when the conversation is really taking place. It’s after the meal that the guests say, “Shall we hide from Abraham?” This is the Lord who’s speaking. God opens His heart to him after the meal to tell him about His plans. It’s after the meal that God tells him then about the fact that he’s going to have the son, and that the promised son is going to come within the next year. that is profound stuff that took place after the meal. It was an opening of the heart that took place. So I guess the reality is, in the context of life sharing, we need enough time – it can’t be rushed time. And in that sense, hospitality seems inefficient to the busy lives of leaders. But if we know that our goal is transformation – life transformation – we understand this is the methodology that Jesus used. And if we understand that the heart opens up in these contexts, then that is really what we want, right?
So this is so simple, again. But I just think that the challenge is to recognize it. I read a lot of books on mission work, about contextualization and about church planting strategies, and I can learn about all sorts of techniques and strategies, and this one is just so simple. It’s kind of like something that we all can do. The problem is the challenge to do it, right? So I think again, brothers and sisters who come from outside of the United States, would you help us? Would you disciple us into this? Because there’s such a deficit in America; there’s such a loss of this. It’s a part of church culture, part of leadership culture, where we really need help. It’s so countercultural right now – it’s so much against the direction that in order for a leader to live this type of lifestyle is going to be countercultural.
Here’s another set of questions: how often do you find yourself working through a meal? How often do you go through a take-out and eat in your car? Those would be indicators to you of the fact that probably, depending on how often you’re doing that, you may not be looking at the opportunities you have to eat together with others.
Now how we eat. I’m not talking about whether we use a fork or spoon or whether we use our hands or chopsticks; not the methodology of our eating, but how we eat in the sense of why is it that hospitality provides such an opportunity for discipleship? Think about the conversations that Jesus had at the meal or after the meal. In Luke 7, you got the story of the sinful woman coming into the meal; the Pharisee is there, and the Pharisee is seeing the interaction that Jesus is having with this woman. Questions are coming into his mind, critical thoughts are coming into his mind; Jesus tells a story. It provides an opportunity. The reality is, in our home situation, the interactions that occur between people, between husbands and wives, between parents and children, the type of stuff that is the thing that happens around when people are together is the very context for how questions and issues and things come up. That’s the very thing that allows for more natural sharing. Because when you have a meeting with someone, if our discipleship occurs around meetings, where we sit with someone, they don’t get to see us interacting with others, right? It’s a very formal – it’s not a life-on-life type of sharing. Where does the life-on-life occur?
The disciples were with Jesus as He lived and as He went about His work, talking to people and so forth, but it was in these environments you see that so many significant spiritual lessons Jesus was able to teach. You think about the lesson that was going on in the home of Martha and Mary. Very interesting – one of the things we need to realize is that Jesus Christ is the great Host. He is the One who invites us into His kingdom. He’s the one who prepares the meal. So we look to Him as a model for what a host looks like. And interesting to me is that Jesus, although He did not have a home, He still was the most hospitable man. He did that, of course, by sometimes multiplying food. He did that by bringing spiritual food. Jesus did prepare food, right? He prepared the meal after the resurrection. It seemed like the Passover meal was a picture of Him preparing food. Luke tells us that in the kingdom to come, that when we sit at the great feast in the kingdom of God, that Jesus is going to be serving us the food? That is mind-boggling, just hard to understand, it’s going to be in the situation similar to what Peter said when he said, “Jesus, don’t wash my feet.” That’s not the way it’s supposed to be. Well, somehow Jesus is an eternal servant that even in the kingdom to come, He wants to serve us a meal.
So Jesus is our model and He is our picture of the great Host. He’s gone to prepare a place for us in His home that where He is we may also be. He’s got many rooms in His home, so He wants all those rooms to be filled. The kingdom of God is pictured like a great banquet, it’s pictured like a great party. All of the imagery that God has given us to understand the kingdom of God revolves around these meals. In the Book of Luke, you think about the significant stories that Jesus told, how many of them involved eating – how important the meal was in the story of the Prodigal Son, and so forth. So how we eat together – the context of sharing our life – that’s how we eat together. It’s not just sharing the food; it’s sharing what’s going on. And that is how people gain an understanding of what it looks like to follow Christ.
I need to finish. I didn’t get through everything. How comfortable are you in having people see you live your life at home? How stressful is hospitality to you? These are issues that we need to deal with. I’d love to answer any questions afterwards, I’d love to tell you about international student ministry, if you’d like to know more about that. I’d just like to close with prayer.
Lord, thanks so much that although we need to learn many new things and understand the world in which we live, and that through this conference and through this time together that we’re being stimulated with new thoughts, thank you that there’s something so simple as hospitality that can be so powerful. So I pray that you give us grace as leaders to live this out that we can be influencing others for your kingdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.