READ | SERMON NOTES
Summary l As evangelists, we should be aware of the cultural realities and climate we are living in today. There is a rising tide of anti-Christian sentiments and authoritarian governments are increasingly restricting religion.
Several theologians have made a clarion call to recover the biblical virtue of hospitality in the way we do missions in a post- modern world. Alexander Strauch defined hospitality as ‘love in action; the flesh and muscle on bones of love.’ The Great Commission Evangelism is to be cradled in the Great Commandment to love God and to love our neighbour.
Hospitality to travelers was widely practiced in the Ancient Near East. The Israelites went even further because they were commanded by the Lord to “love the aliens as themselves.” (Leviticus 19:34) and “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Deut 10:19). The New Testament also urgently calls on believers to show hospitality to strangers. (1 Pet 4:7-9, Rom 12:13) Hospitality is a distinctive mark of Christians and is integral to mission.
As a church, we must imitate our hospitable God in missions:-
(1) The Premise for Hospitality – recognizes that God has been hospitable to us. In the Old Testament, God was hospitable to the Israelites. They were in turn to reflect God’s hospitality by welcoming strangers, widows, orphans and Gentiles. God is a gracious host who constantly welcomes all peoples and wayward sinners through sheer inexplicable grace. Isaiah 25:6 gives a prophetic image of God as the divine host welcoming the nations to His banquet when His saving rule is made complete. As recipients of God’s gracious hospitality, we are to embody a hospitable spirit to others.
(2) The Posture of Hospitality – is to reflect God’s hospitality to others. We do this by listening and showing a genuine interest in others. Christ was gracious and non-judgmental of the vocations of Zacchaeus the tax collector, and the centurion who had requested for healing for his servant. There was no insistence on a thick wall of moral conditions before extending loving hospitality. It was Zacchaeus’ encounter with the hospitable love of Christ that led him to repent. Instead of telling others how wrong they are and how right we are; how wrongly they have led their lives; how might we reflect a light and love so compelling that others want to know the source – the Gospel? Hospitality is about creating a welcoming space where others feel safe, where we can be authentic and where the possibility of change by the Holy Spirit is offered without coercion or pressure.
(3) The Practice of Hospitality – calls us to realign our lifestyles to mission. Jesus spent much of His time with the marginalized and ostracized. We are to follow His example by making space and time for the weak and marginalized in society. (Luke 14) Missions is not only limited to organized ministry events but is to be a part of our daily lives.
A Framework for Outreach: 3Bs
- Bless. Do this through words and actions that usher in God’s welcome and acceptance. How we treat the weakest in society is a reflection of our Christian maturity.
- Belonging (Befriending). Blessing others lays the foundation for friendships to arise. Through acts of service and conversations, we cultivate a sense of belonging, and the seeds of the Gospel are planted.
- Believing. No one likes to be talked down to and people would better appreciate hearing us share our personal journey. We trust in God’s opening and divine timing.
God calls each of us to be his hospitable witness, wherever we are. In a xenophobic world where racism, suspicion and hatred are rising, may we reflect the hospitable presence of God that welcomes and embraces others. The world will then say, ‘they are from the church and we have been blessed by them.’
(Sermon notes by Denis Koh)
PONDER | REFLECTION QUESTIONS
- Read Leviticus 19:33–34; Deuteronomy 10:18-19. Israel was called to be a light to the nations. From these verses, how was Israel to relate to the vulnerable and those outside the faith community as part of their missionary witness? How might these verses apply to us?
- Read 1 Peter 4:7-9; Romans 12:13; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8. What do these verses tell us about the importance of hospitality in the New Testament?
- Read Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 19:1-10. How did Jesus extend hospitality to the Centurion (a gentile Roman soldier) and to Zacchaeus (a despised person in Jewish society)? How did Jesus’ hospitality lead to their positive response? What key principles can we learn from Jesus in the way that we engage others?
- Reflecting on the answers to the earlier questions, how would you define Christian Hospitality and what are its key attributes? Consider how you have been a recipient of God’s hospitality? Reflect on the level of your hospitality to others in your spheres of influence.
- What is the next step in your discipleship where outreach is concerned? In what ways can you intentionally practice hospitality as mission for God in the various spheres of your life (i.e. family, school, workplace, recreational, ministry, overseas etc.)? Would you or your small group prayerfully consider being involved with COSC or Missions at Wesley?
- Read Luke 14:12-14. Prayerfully consider who you can invite to your home or to a meal/drink in order to get to know them better, to practice hospitality as a way of life?