“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” 1 Peter 4:9
It was just before closing time and the trail bikes were washed and immaculately parked in their abode for the night, the restaurant dishes all packed away, and the horses sent out to pasture after a day of entertaining visitors on their backs. Then there comes a random tour bus with a load of African American tourists to enjoy the property, having travelled at least an hour from their hotels or cruise ships on the rough road to get to the property for their “day” of fun. With most of our staff already gone, I was quite prepared as the youngest member of my family to bid these late visitors adieu and graciously apologize that we were closed.
This day was unlike any other for me – the call to service involved a horseback riding tour for these tourists. My father made it clear that because we were now short-staffed that I, along with my older (and taller) siblings, had to assist as guides of the horseback tour as all the tourists were novices.
I had just received a new pair of fancy wedged sandals which I really loved. Knowing that I could not possibly use that as my excuse to NOT be a horse guide, I had to swallow my fears and literally “grab the reins”.
I was given the largest horse to lead, with a lady who was almost the equal weight of the horse. Just out the gate, we happened upon a huge muddy puddle which spanned the whole cross-section of the road. I had NO CHOICE but to walk right through it with… you figured it out… my fancy new wedged sandals. The suction force with which my new sandals were torn from my feet could not be missed - OFF they went. For the rest of the 45 minute tour, I walked the property bare-footed with reins in one hand, and shoes in the other. It was safe to say that I was committed to the task.
Nearing the end of the trail, the main guide stopped to open a gate. While waiting, the horse at this point was tired and was clearly getting quite bored with waiting and decided (it seems) to rest one of its hooves on my left foot. Don’t forget that my shoes had long abandoned my feet in the mud and were left to fend for themselves under the weight of this giant four-legged beast AND rider. The horse proceeded to lean over pushing me towards a barbed wire fence that bordered a pond. I managed to put a few fingers between the barbs of the wire and the other hand on the horse and with a rush of adrenaline and power that could only have been from the Lord Himself, I pushed the horse off of my toes (or what I thought was left of them).
Though in excruciating pain, I remained silent, squeezed my eyes shut, and politely told the visitor that we had come to the end of the tour and that the horse would follow the main guide back to the stable where she should safely dismount, and there I wished her well and said my good-bye. She had no idea what had occurred because I was able to compose myself enough to not cause a big stir and allow her to enjoy the rest of the experience without event. As I turned to walk away, my forced smile quickly turned to a look of terror as I hurriedly walked towards my mother for her tender, loving attention and care.
The Apostle Peter, in addressing persecuted Christians, sought not only to remind them of their blessed hope in Christ, but encouraged them to live God-honouring lives, with one such way being to “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9).
The preceding verse is the charge to LOVE (“Above all, love each other deeply…” – 1 Peter 4:8). One cannot be truly hospitable without the virtue of love. Though we can put on good deeds as an act, its true colours will be revealed, especially in the face of very trying people or circumstances. The mask will eventually be stripped away and the state of the loveless heart laid bare. Love is the foundation of a truly hospitable attitude or posture.
Hospitality then, should not merely be boiled down to a group of smiling people who mean well. It is a very active service should it be accepted, demanding eyes for doing good for another person, even if it hurts or costs the giver. In the story I shared, you learned of the pain I endured so that the guest would not have a tainted experience. The Hebrew word for ‘hospitality’ is hospitalitas – it is the act or practice of receiving and entertaining strangers or guests without reward, or with kind and generous liberality.
In the early church and today, hospitality remains an important expression of lovingkindness. Believers are Christ’s Ambassadors on the earth exhibiting the kindness of the Lord, not being unaware that this very offer of hospitality to those in need can mean a moving of people towards salvation. We see this in Romans 2:4 that kindness has the power to move someone towards repentance: “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”
Having laid the foundation for the importance of demonstrating hospitality in our lives, here are 4 points that we must take to heart to fulfil the command of offering hospitality to one other:
(1) HOSPITALITY IS EVERY BELIEVER’S RESPONSIBILITY.
As noted previously, the trait of hospitality should be present in every believer’s life. It speaks to each one of us having a heart for servanthood. Though there are people with various giftings that are strong in areas such as Helps, we are all called to offer hospitality. Though we are ALL called to offer hospitality, it is noteworthy that the Bible charges leaders to exhibit a hospitable quality as seen in the supporting verses below:
“Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,” (1 Timothy 3:2)
“Rather, he (overseer or elder) must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. (Titus 1:8)
Hospitality as we looked at earlier, is a kindness. Extending the offer of kindness is the responsibility of each believer. Though it is good to have a team or arm of ministry dedicated to hospitality for welcoming visitors at church and attending to their various needs on a Sunday, it must go beyond the four walls and into the lives of every believer. Why? Because we have been given the ministry of reconciliation and must be faithful stewards in executing this service in the way that God says we should, undergirded by a depth of love for others.
(2) HOSPITALITY IS TO BE OFFERED.
Literally, the word ‘offer’ is to bring to or before; to present for acceptance or rejection; to exhibit something that may be taken or received, or not.
When one offers hospitality, we are doing a few things:
Extending good will or kindness towards the potential recipient, in the hopes of disarming them and putting them at ease while they are in your presence.
Identifying a clear or possible need.
Presenting the option for the need to be satisfied.
The verse says that we should ‘offer hospitality’, in other words, “present for acceptance or rejection the option to satisfy the clear or possible need.” We must bear in mind that an offer can either be accepted (which is the favourable outcome) or rejected. For the latter, our responses must still be laced with godly kindness, leaving a blessing as we are called to do.
We have to keep in mind the context in which this verse comes – the Apostle Peter is calling those experiencing persecution at that moment in history to offer something that they themselves need, but are not receiving. This is a potent point that cannot be overlooked. This is saying that suffering does not exempt the work of God being done in and through us.
(3) HOSPITALITY DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE.
Offer hospitality to ‘one another’. This means that we should extend ourselves to all people, not just to those who we already know and love. Matthew 5:46-47 puts this thought into better context for us – “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
We see in 1 Peter that the believers are in the midst of persecution, so Peter is charging them to show hospitality to even those who are causing them harm, their enemies. If they refuse it, we are told to “… love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5: 44-45)
(4) HOSPITALITY SHOULD BE OFFERED FREE OF
COMPLAINT or GRUMBLING.
Philippians 2:14-15 says clearly “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.” It is so fitting that this verse says “do everything…” as it brings much more weight to the charge of offering hospitality without complaint. Why would one grumble about being hospitable to anyone? Here are some possible reasons:
"I don't know them.”
“I am an introvert, that’s just how I am.”
“I don’t have those giftings.”
“They don't deserve it.”
“Someone else will help them.”
If we consider what Peter stated in the beginning of 1 Peter chapter 4, it should help to ground this command for us - that we should “arm ourselves” with the same attitude as Christ … that is, our lives should be spent in the Will of God, no longer for evil human desires, so then, we have an obligation to offer kindness to each other, because that is what The Lord wants of us, and that He Himself, has done for us.
In the same way that crime can badly affect a country’s hospitality industry, so can complaining or grumbling corrupt our offering of hospitality. Complaining has a way of souring relationships. Grumbling can have serious consequences and taint our walk with the Lord. Instead, Ephesians 4:29 says that we should “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
We should also consider seriously James 5:9 which commands us as follows: “Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!”
According to Peter, we are to welcome one another in and demonstrate hospitality without complaining. James tells us not to grumble about one another to avoid condemnation because our judge hears all things.
The Bible in Ephesians 5:1 charges us to "Be imitators of God...". God, being the very host for humanity, providing for our every need, is the epitome of hospitality. It is His Love for people that drives Him to give of Himself in every way, down to His very own Son. And this, to ALL people, the world at large.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
So, we see that Hospitality has its origins in the lovingkindness of God. As imitators of God, we should offer hospitality (liberal kindness without expecting reward) to one another with a posture of love and graciousness, free of complaint, even in the face of those who hate us.
*Look out for Part 2 where we learn from the father of nations himself, Abraham, who demonstrates exactly what hospitality looks like in active form. *