Again, let’s start with the same question we did for our last passage: What’s the nature of the language here?
And again: It’s a command. It’s not an isolated command, either; it’s an often-repeated command. Our sovereign, holy Lord, Boss and God commanded us to offer hospitality. And to not grumble about it.
Someone asked me once, “What if I don’t like inviting guests home for dinner?” My response: “Repent, sinner! God said to do it!” Not in that exact language, of course. But I do make the point that this is something we’re commanded to do. Christian living is done together, in each other’s lives and in each other’s homes.
What if I were to describe a best friend to you, tell you all about him and then say, “But, funny thing, he’s never been to my home”? It’s impossible for me to imagine a best friend who had not been to my home dozens of times. There’s something about sharing each other’s space that draws us closer together.
Next question: Why? Why are we to offer hospitality without grumbling? I can think of two reasons.
1) We’re to offer hospitality without grumbling because all good ideas can degenerate into work. When we have people over, my wife is pretty dialed up about having the house clean. And, when I say she likes having the house clean, I mean she likes having the whole house clean. She likes having the living room clean, the kitchen clean, the bedroom clean, the bedroom bathroom clean, the bedroom bathroom shower clean….
I’ve tried explaining to her, “Sweetie, I don’t think they’re going to take a shower.”
“I know, I know,” she says, “It just makes my soul feel at peace when the house is clean.”
I’ve never quite understood this. But I understand this: When Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. So when we have people over, I always make a point to help clean up. I’ll clean the shower or mow the lawn or buy the Diet Coke or make the coffee cake.
One week after service, I invited four new couples to join our group on a Friday evening. I called them on Monday, and called back on Thursday to confirm. Friday afternoon I was doing what I always do—vacuuming the floor, taking out the trash, running to the store, cleaning up the shower (yes, I know). Seven o’clock rolled around. Our friends showed up, but none of the four couples I had invited came. Around 7:30 I got on the phone and called one of them.
“Ron, this is Josh from the church. We talked last night. . .”
“Oh yeah, Josh, sorry we didn’t make it. I had a hectic day at the office. I was all stressed out and just felt like chillin’ at the house tonight. Sorry.”
“Ron. You need to come look at my bathroom. I have been shining this thing up just for you.” That was what I was tempted to say. But I needed to remember what the Bible says, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” We need to remember that hospitality is hospitality, not just a task we have to complete.
2) We are to offer hospitality without grumbling because… well, some people are kind of hard to love. I had been talking all evening at a conference in Oklahoma about using hospitality to grow groups. Afterward, a man came up to me and reflected, “Some people here in Oklahoma are kind of hard to love.” Indeed. In fact, it’s not just true in Oklahoma; it’s true of people everywhere.
Sometimes we’ll say we want to win our world for God. But what we often mean is: We want to win nice people, funny people, interesting people. But that’s not the world God sends us into. God has called us to reach all kinds of people and sometimes they are hard to love.
Rick Warren talks about this. God wants to make us into loving people. To make us into loving people, he puts into every church and every group someone who’s an “Extra Grace Required” kind of person—someone who’s a little odd. Someone who’s not that interesting, not that funny, not that fun to be with. Every group has one. Every church has a few, if not a lot. If you’re thinking, “That’s not true of our group; everyone in our group is easy to love,” I have some bad news—that person might be you!
My favorite speaker is John Ortberg, and my favorite story that he shares on the road relates to this point. John tells about a time when he was traveling by plane with his family from coast to coast. It’s a five-hour trip, and they were crowded in the seats they were in. I’m picturing some lap children squirming and jabbering.
John noticed that there was quite a bit of room at the very back of the plane. So, they gathered their belongings and went to the back of the plane where they could spread out. An hour later, there was stuff strewn everywhere. The kids were crawling over the seats and under the seats. There were toys and blankets and rattles and snacks and and pacifiers and stuff everywhere. You know you’re in trouble when the flight attendant comes by and says, “Can these kids play outside?”
After while another guy came by. He surveyed the damage and says to John, “Hey. Are these your kids?” Startled, John replies, “Yeah.”
The man gets real serious and says, “I would do anything if I just had two kids.”
John didn’t know what to say. “I guess you and your wife are not able to have kids?”
“No, no. We have five kids. I would do anything if we just had two kids. Any two. Two would be plenty. I know this looks like a mess to you, but to me, it is a walk in the park.”
Sometimes we feel that way about our kids. Sometimes we feel that way about the people in our group. Sometimes we’ll have someone over for a party and we’ll feel that way about them. Some people are hard to love. But it’s our job to love them anyway.
Jesus taught us, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35, NLT). Note that he didn’t say people will know you are my disciples because you are so disciplined or you go to church all the time or are so spiritual. Our ability to love one another—including hard-to-love people—is the proof that we’re walking with Jesus.
Josh Hunt. (2010). Make Your Group Grow.