by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Text: III John 3-8
I. Sometimes you are so familiar with a term that you never stop to examine whether your use of the term is actually correct
A. Years ago, I was studying about hospitality. There are several passages in the New Testament that tells us to be hospitable
1. Romans 12:13 - given to hospitality
2. Hebrews 13:2 - entertain strangers
3. I Peter 4:9 - be hospitable without grumbling
B. Yet, for the most part, these verses tell us what to do without saying how it is done.
1. We thus fill in the gap with our own understanding of what we think hospitality is.
2. Most Americans see hospitality as having someone over a meal or inviting someone to a party where they can enjoy time together
C. The more I dug, the more I realized that as a whole, our society has strayed a great deal from the concept of hospitality presented in the Bible
1. The local casinos across the river call themselves hospitality centers. By this they mean they supply entertainment to those visiting the area or live in the area.
2. The hotels like to apply the word hospitality to their business as well.
a. Yet, here the “guests” are paying for the service.
b. It is not a gift freely given.
3. Too, we often rate hospitality has how often or how well we have been entertained.
a. You have your boss or a major client over for dinner, and that is call being hospitable
b. But here, too, the host is hoping for something from the service given. A new contract or a remembrance when a promotion is available.
D. What happens in society tends to creep into the church
1. “That group is not hospitable enough.”
a. Everything we do as a Christian can always be improved.
b. So how much hospitality is enough?
2. And just what is meant by hospitality?
a. I ask this at times and I get vague answers about the people have you over for dinner or having a party at their house.
b. If only a few Christians hold dinner parties, then the group as a whole is condemned for its lack of hospitality.
c. Of greater fascination to me is that the one pointing his finger at the congregation almost never has others over to their own home and often declines invitations given, except among a very select few.
3. We also have people who push individual responsibilities off onto the church
a. The church is expected to organize social events and entertainment for various groups so these groups can enjoy each other’s company.
b. Yet all verses dealing with hospitality are directed toward individual Christians and not congregations
c. We cannot make an institution out of our personal responsibilities.
II. Exactly what is hospitality?
A. There are three Greek works translated as “hospitality” or “hospitable”.
1. philoxenia - a compound Greek word meaning “love of” + “guest room”
a. philo is familiar to many of us. It is the word for brotherly love.
b. xenia is seen in Philemon 22 when Paul requests a guest room be prepared for him.
c. Here is a person who loves to have house guests. They even set aside a room just for that purpose.
d. Romans 12:13 - Practicing hospitality means having people spend time in your home, especially in the sense of overnight guests.
e. Hebrews 13:2 - There is an allusion here to the time Abraham brought three travelers to his home and feed them in Genesis 18
2. philoxenos - another compound word meaning “love of” + “strangers or guests”
a. A stranger (xenos) doesn’t necessarily mean someone you have never met, but someone who is not a part of your immediate family.
(1) It is shown in Matthew 25:35
(a) The person is not local.
(b) He hasn’t a place to stay, so a place was offered.
(2) It can also be applied to the person acting as host to a stranger - Romans 16:23
b. People not from a region are xenos. It means they don’t have local family to watch over them and give them aid.
(1) Many of us are not natives of this area, though some of us have lived here so long that we have put down roots.
(2) We constantly have people moving in who have no local ties. These are the strangers among us.
c. Elders are to have a love for strangers - I Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8
d. All Christians are to willingly treat each other with love - I Peter 4:9
(1) Most of us are not related to each other. What brings us together is our love for God and His Word – our common belief.
(2) Yet we watch out for each other. We care for each other as family
(3) A beautiful description of Christians written by Aristides about A.D. 125.: “The Christians, O King, went about and searched, and they have found the truth. As I have learned from their writings, they have come nearer to truth and genuine knowledge than the rest of the nations. ... Falsehood is not found among them. And they love one another. They do not turn away their care from widows, and they deliver the orphan from anyone who treats him harshly. He who has, gives to him who has not. And this is done without boasting. When they see a stranger, they take him into their homes, and they rejoice over him as a very brother. For they do not call themselves brothers after the flesh, but brothers after the spirit and in God. whenever one of the poor among them passes from this world, each one of them gives heed to him, according to his ability, and carefully sees to his burial. And if they hear that one of their number is imprisoned or afflicted because of the name of their Christ, all of them carefully attend to his needs. If it is possible to redeem him, they set him free. If there are any poor and needy among them, but if they have no spare food to give, they fast two or three days in order to supply the necessary food to the needy.” [The Apology of Aristides the Philosopher, XV].
(4) Brethren, I can’t think of a more beautiful tribute to children of God and the essence of what is hospitality.
3. xenodocheo - “stranger” + “lodging”
a. Used only in I Timothy 5:10
(1) Note that the washing of the saints feet is a part of her aid to strangers.
b. Giving people, who are not family, a place to stay. A home in your home.
c. Gauis had Paul in his home - Romans 16:23
d. Simon the tanner had Peter lodge with him - Acts 10:5-6
e. Mnason lodging Paul and his traveling companions. The church also welcomed Paul and his companions - Acts 21:15-17
III. I hope you are beginning to see a difference in the Bible’s term of hospitality and the American view.
A. We place the emphasis on the entertainment. The Bible places the emphasis on the treatment of brethren as family
1. Gaius mentioned in III John 3-8
a. He aided brethren while they were in his area
b. Because of his love for the church, he cared for them and sent them on in a worthy manner.
2. Dorcas sewing clothes for her sisters in Christ - Acts 9:36, 39
3. It is a cup of water to a brother - Mark 9:41
B. The Old Testament had similar requirements for the Israelites
1. Portions of fields were left unharvested for the foreigner living in their area - Leviticus 19:9-10
2. They were to treat such people as Israelites - Leviticus 19:33-34
3. They were to show love by giving food and clothing - Deuteronomy 10:18-19
IV. Hospitality is knowing you have family whenever and wherever you meet brethren.
A. Think of the opportunities we have here.
1. We have brethren who drive through constantly - Do we see to their needs?
2. We have brethren who are in the area temporarily for work - Do we make sure they aren’t lonely?
3. We have brethren who move in for a while with the military - Do they know they have brothers and sisters, moms and dads who will ease the heartaches of being far from home?
V. I know we do a fair job here. I’ve lost track of the number of times people who have left and later write to say they miss the group here and wished they could come back.
A. Hospitality isn’t measured by the number of people your invite for dinner, though hospitable people do that often.
B. It isn’t any one particular type of deed, but how you treat others.
C. I’ve heard so many say, “I would be hospitable if I had a bigger house or time to cook or ...”
1. Hospitality doesn’t require things.
2. Think about how you would treat your mother or father, brother or sister, if they lived in this area.
3. That is how hospitable brethren show treat one another.
D. As we close, consider this passage - I John 3:13-19