Jesus began His ministry with the help of other people. He didn't need to, but He was setting an important precedent for the Church whose mission is to live together in community. Christians do need the help of other people—apart from commands to not forsake the assembly of believers, living for Christ is impossible without the support of others trying to do the same thing.
The communal example goes further back than Jesus' earthly ministry, though. Before the creation of anything, God existed as Trinity, perfect community serving as the example for all subsequent relationships. Before we loved Him, God loved us; before the Church existed in community God Himself was the perfect relational community.
Our relationships aren't perfect, but we still have them; we still should have them. When it comes to families, hospitality is one of the best possible manifestations of Christian community. We are instructed to eat together, attend church together, to be interested and involved in each others' lives, to show the world that we are indeed the Body of Christ.
Hospitality involves opening our homes in generosity and welcoming others inside. This is easy when your best friend or close relatives are coming over, more difficult when the family you don't like much accepts your hesitant dinner invitation. But we aren't instructed to serve people we like, we're instructed to serve our families, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and the lost.
Because it requires sacrifice, hospitality is a form of service. It's easy to assume because of this that it's dreary and that our pleasure is only to be found in our suffering for Christ. This attitude is wrong and fundamentally misguided. While not everyone has great table manners or can carry a fast-paced conversation, the act of spreading joy through generosity will inevitably lead to our own joy.
This is a fundamental element of the Christian life too often and too easily overlooked. We assume being friendly at church or in the store is good enough, and retreat into our homes to escape the rest of the people out there also retreating into their homes. The act of hospitality brings Christians closer together and shows unbelievers we mean everything we say about love and service. And it's just plain fun, more than you'll ever know until you ask your neighbors or the people in the pew behind yours to dinner sometime.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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