Peter Kendrick, professor of theology and culture
New Orleans Seminary, North GA hub
My wife, Pat, practices biblical hospitality – inviting strangers to become kin. Seldom do we eat without inviting someone. I have eaten with everyone imaginable. Even as a busy nurse practitioner she has the reputation and the practice of bringing in McDonald’s biscuits for breakfast and home-cooked meals for lunch for her co-workers on the Fridays she works.
If food was not enough, she hand-sews dresses for the daughters of our co-workers as well. If food and sewing were not enough, someone unrelated to us and not a foster child has lived in our house for as long as I can remember — and not for just a few days, how about several on-going years. I must admit that in the beginning of our marriage I often resented the cost and labor that went into preparing the food for people, sewing the dresses for the daughters, and the cost of housing, feeding, and clothing a teenager/young adult who had no other place to go except to the streets. But then I realized that for Pat, hospitality was the way she shared Christ.
In Judaism, hospitality – hakhnasat orchim, “the bringing in of strangers” – is considered a mitzvah (commandment) which began when Abraham invited the three wanderers from Mamre to relax while he brought them water and food (Gen. 18:1-5; see also Ex. 22:21; 23:9; Lev. 19:33-34). For many, hakhnasat orchim is a vital part of gemilut hasadim, “giving of loving kindness” (Deut. 10:17-19).
Likewise, the Greek word for hospitality, philoxenia, means a “love for strangers” and was expected of believers. Leaders of congregations were to be hospitable (1 Tim. 3:2; 5:10; Titus 1:8). Believers were encouraged to practice hospitality (Heb. 13:2; 1 Peter 4:8-9; 3 Jn. 5-8). Paul writes that believers should be “pursuing hospitality” (Rom. 12:13).
Biblical hospitality, inviting strangers to become kin, is simply the second great commandment – “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). Here, in these parables, Jesus is pointing out two ways we can demonstrate biblical hospitality.
Biblical hospitality is inviting strangers into our homes and lives and making them our brothers and sisters.
Jesus, with a subtle sense of humor, makes a profound recommendation to the host. If you want to stop this humiliating behavior of watching people scramble for seats of honor, then stop continually inviting your friends and start inviting others. Invite those who can’t repay you; those who can’t and won’t scramble for position; those who, because of their physical condition, you might have to help to the table.
Jesus is not advocating that we ignore our friends, brothers, relatives, and even rich neighbors. But that kind of continual fellowship can quickly become a social club – a mutually beneficial religious network. Rather, Jesus is challenging the host to use the dinner as an opportunity to help those who cannot repay us. In this way, love for our neighbor (Lk. 10:27) is expressed as love for those who are in need (Lk. 14:13, 21).
In the incarnation, Jesus pursued us and invited us to His mansion. In pursuing hospitality, we invite strangers to come to our homes to be pampered with our acceptance, fellowship, and love and thereby meet Christ and become our brothers and sisters in Christ – our kin.
Surely you know someone who desperately wants to be a part of life – your life. Invite them to lunch!
Biblical hospitality is inviting strangers into the Kingdom of God
This third parable of the Messianic Banquet, where the Messiah would come and share in the great feast, is clearly a picture of salvation and the inheritance of eternal life (cf. Lk. 18:18, 25-26). There are some important elements in this parable worth noting. First, what the Pharisee saw as a celebration in the distant future (Lk. 14:15), Jesus proclaimed is now here: “Come, for everything is now ready” (Lk. 14:17).
Second, the interest is not so much on the excuses of those not attending (Lk. 14:18-20) but on the readiness of the host to fill the table (Lk. 14:23). When the invited guests refuse, He sends his servant out to the streets and alleys of the town to “bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame” (Lk. 14:21), the kind of people Jesus came to save (Lk. 15:1-2; 19:10), and the kind of people Jesus wanted the host to invite to his own dinner (Lk. 14: 13).
Third, when the servant replies, “What you have ordered has been done, but there is still room” (Lk. 14:22), the Master replies, “Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full” (Lk. 14:23).
Notice the ever-enlarging radius-streets and alleys of the town (Lk. 14:21) to the roads and country lanes. The Great Commission is about enlarging our radius into the whole world from Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost; from the have to the have-nots with the Gospel of Good News – the Supper is ready. “Compel” does not mean to use force but to remove the fear that so gracious and wonderful a feast could not be intended for them.
Did you miss the obvious? God has not asked us to be just a Welcoming Church. Rather, God has asked us to be an Inviting Church as well. Churches pride themselves on being a Welcoming Church. But churches plateau and die waiting for someone to come that they can welcome. We are to be continually pursuing hospitality – going and inviting strangers into our homes and churches, welcoming them and making them our kin.
Warren Wiersbe said it well when he wrote: “The Christian life is a feast, not a funeral, and all are invited to come. Each of us as believers must herald abroad the message, ‘Come, for all things are now ready!’ God wants to see His house filled, and ‘yet there is room.’ He wants us to go home (Mark 5:19), into the streets and lanes (Luke 14:21), into the highways and hedges (Luke 14:23), and into all the world (Mark 16:15) with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”