Is There Room in Your Inn?
The text came early. “Thank you for letting us stay. You were so kind. We are on our way home now. Oh, and by the way, the toilet in the last stall of the ladies’ room is clogged. We tried to open it but were unsuccessful.” My first thought was actually, “If that’s all there is after twenty teenagers stayed in the building for three nights, and for one night longer than they planned, all is well!”
That was my thought right up unto I opened the bathroom door. Until I opened the door of the last stall. Until I saw what I saw! Oh my. They had indeed tried to clear the blockage. The evidence was evident. The full reservoir had settled leaving a filthy scum pasted to the entire sides of the bowl. I cleared the remaining clog and set out to clean the toilet and mop the bathroom and kitchen floors.
As I was cleaning and straightening the building (the kids really did a great job of keeping it fairly neat!) and mopping a few floors and swabbing a little porcelain, I got to thinking about biblical hospitality. The author of Hebrews reminds his faithful readers of Abraham’s encounter with God in an act of hospitality:
Hebrews 13:1-2 (ESV) 1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
Hospitality is presented as a Christian value, a Christ-like pursuit, a discipleship requirement. Hospitality in this context is a vital strategy in the continuation of brotherly love, along with visiting the imprisoned and caring for the sick. It is one of the actions of faith and love for which God will hold people responsible on the day of judgment. (See Matthew 25:31-46.)
Peter adds another layer of insight when he directs faithful disciples to practice hospitality without grumbling:
1 Peter 4:9 (ESV) 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
Hospitality, in the New Testament context is the inverse of “missions.” Where missions obeys the commission from Jesus to go into all the world and make disciples, hospitality answers the command to invite the world into your space and make disciples. On mission we enter a messy world full of messy people and strive to bring the light and life and love of Christ. With hospitality, we invite still messy people to bring their messy world into our homes, our lives, and our order in our to serve them with the light and life and love of Jesus.
So, hospitality is the other side of evangelism for folks who can’t travel. It is the opportunity to fulfill the great commission as Christ brings the world to our doorstep. It is not a burden, though it may mean cleaning toilets and trying to figure out how a dozen high schoolers can go through an entire case of paper towels; it is a privilege, an honor, an obligation, and an act of faith.
Hospitality among God’s people need not be extreme, but it shouldn’t be absent. There should be room in our inn for the stranger whom God want to show kindness, mercy, compassion, and sacrificial love. Perhaps it will be as simple as cleaning toilets and mopping floors. Maybe it will involve preparing food and doing dishes. It may require overnight stays in clean sheets, meaning laundry and soap.
But regardless of the shape hospitality takes in any given situation, there is always one component that must be present, an item without which no hospitality can occur. Hospitality requires an invitation. Hospitality requires we make ourselves and our services available to those who need them. Hospitality flows from an open heart to an open door.
God has graciously welcomed you, stranger, into His house of faith, His family of love, and now it is your turn to welcome others. Is there room in your inn?