2.15.2008

hospitality sweet?

"Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need." -Acts 4:32-37 (NKJV)

I enjoy attending a few small groups at my church. I love the fellowship and friendship I experience there—both of which are on a completely different level than any I've ever had outside Christian circles. In two groups, we recently spent time on the topic of "hospitality," and what that should look like in the life of a follower of Jesus Christ.

I could go on and on about what we discussed. We spent months in both groups on the subject, never running out of things to ponder and discuss. But on a basic level, I will say that Christian hospitality is more than just having people over for dinner or a movie. A lot more. It's also about sharing what you have with others who need it, whether it's your home or your time or your possessions or whatever. (See Scripture above.) If you can help someone else, do it.

That said, I think the study helped me notice some serious irony among the brethren. As an example, I once spoke to someone who felt led to go on a mission trip. Money was a bit of an object, but they said they were going to trust the Lord.

Now in my church, if you put it out there that you're going on a mission trip, people will jump on the opportunity to help, financially and otherwise. And rightly should they be allowed to do so. Yet so many feel embarrased to even bring up the fact that they might need help, independent Americans that we are. But the truth is, you're not demanding anything by letting people know your plans. You are, in fact, allowing others to help as the Lord leads. You get to see God work in amazing ways through other people. And that's often how He allows hospitality, generosity and service to work out.

So I was really glad to hear this would not be an obstacle to this person's trip. But when something else came up with which I offered to help, what did I hear but, "Well I'm gonna trust the Lord with that too."

Ever heard the old joke about the guy in the flood? A car, a boat and a helicopter come to rescue him, but he refuses all three, stating, "The Lord will protect me!" He finally drowns, and in Heaven ponders why he wasn't protected, to which he is told, "I sent you a car, a boat and a helicopter. What more did you want?"

I was offering a potential "boat" for this person, and in seeking to "trust the Lord," they completely missed out on a way God might have helped immediately. But this isn't an isolated incident. I see this sort of thing happen all the time, always recalling that joke.

In reality, it's not funny when people miss the boat because they are looking for some sort of extraordinary answer to prayer. I hate to break it to everyone, but God is probably not going to send a murder of crows to drop 100 dollar bills at your feet, or whatever other unbelievable means people are expecting. Can He? Obviously He can do whatever He likes. But the Lord most often works by more, shall we say, conventional means. Still, we have keep our eyes open and be ready and willing to accept.

It’s also no fun when no one wants to accept your offers to provide hospitality or help, by whatever means.

Another side to all this is that I offer to help or entertain people in all sorts of ways all the time, and am so frequently refused it makes my head spin. Thankfully, sometimes I do hold out a hand and have someone grab it, and lately that’s been more the case. When they don't, it sort of hurts to know I have the resources or friendship or time, but many don't want to accept what I have to offer. But I wonder if this doesn't provide just the tiniest glimpse of how God might feel as He so freely offers grace to His creation and they continually refuse.

Next time someone offers to extend you a bit of hospitality or assistance, why not take it? Get over that free world I-live-by-myself-I-can-do-it-myself mentality and bless someone else by allowing them to be a blessing in your life. You never know how the Lord will combine your humility with their hospitality. But if you give Him a chance, He’ll show you.

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