A Brief Biblical Theology of Hospitality
This post doesn’t emerge from the part of me that finds it necessary to hurriedly defend my actions with Scripture. This post comes out of a gentle wandering with the Lord through the Scriptures as I asked the Lord what in the world being hospitable had to do with the gospel. I’m ashamed to say it’s taken me this long to move beyond just feeling like it was the ‘right thing’ to offer a place where people could find refuge and restoration. It seemed like good ministry strategy, meaningful public service and just plain nice. In recent days, providing housing has become something much more sacred. Providing housing is a holy pursuit because God has always welcomed people to walk with Him in a place He has prepared.
In the opening chapters of Genesis, God prepares the garden and after creating Adam and Eve welcomes them to it. He provides a place where they can walk with Him, have dominion over creation, enjoy relationship with each other, and contribute to the welfare of the garden (Gen. 1:28; 2:15-25).
He gives Noah the dimensions of this ark which will provide refuge from His coming wrath. The ark offered a place to be protected and saved for those who followed Him in faith (Hebrews 11:7; 2 Peter 2:5).
Abraham is invited to leave His place and follow God to the place that He has prepared for Him. In this place, He promises to make him into a great nation, to bless him so that Abraham can be a blessing to all peoples.
In the story of Rahab, God uses her by switching her allegiances, and providing sanctuary to the spies and so Rahab and her family were saved (Joshua 6:35).
Even the holy family struggled to find a space as Mary prepared to give birth. It’s amazing that space, housing and safety was such an issue in the climax of the gospel narrative. But God provided a space. It may have been humble and meager but what God did in that space is what lasts.
Providing housing is a holy and sacred task because God has always hospitably ushered people into places of refuge and restoration. The building may be meager. It might not even be a building. It might be a boat or a land full of Canaanites or a fish’s stomach or a manger. The circumstances were seemingly less than ideal. But God uses spaces He has sovereignly set aside for people to be saved from His wrath, protected from the world, blessed so they can be a blessing, enjoy relationship with each other, and carry out the important tasks He’s called them to do. Ultimately, this transitional housing program gives our little community a place to look forward to our future permanent address: “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:2-3)