Please take your Bibles and turn with me to Genesis 19. I want to share with you a very strange story.
Genesis 19:1-8 (NKJV) Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground. 2 And he said, "Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant's house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way." And they said, "No, but we will spend the night in the open square." 3 But he insisted strongly; so they turned in to him and entered his house. Then he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. 4 Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. 5 And they called to Lot and said to him, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally." 6 So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, 7 and said, "Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly! 8 "See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof."
What I want to draw your attention to this morning is verse 8. Does this make any sense to you? Lot stepped outside, closing the door behind him, hoping to defuse the situation. He pleaded with them not to act wickedly, and, just as we are about to applaud his courage, he offers to surrender his two daughters to the appetites of these depraved degenerates. What kind of father would do something like this?
We might just write this off as the actions of a very lousy father, but we see a very similar incident in:
Judges 19:17-24 (NKJV) And when he raised his eyes, he saw the traveler in the open square of the city; and the old man said, "Where are you going, and where do you come from?" 18 So he said to him, "We are passing from Bethlehem in Judah toward the remote mountains of Ephraim; I am from there. I went to Bethlehem in Judah; now I am going to the house of the LORD. But there is no one who will take me into his house, 19 "although we have both straw and fodder for our donkeys, and bread and wine for myself, for your female servant, and for the young man who is with your servant; there is no lack of anything." 20 And the old man said, "Peace be with you! However, let all your needs be my responsibility; only do not spend the night in the open square." 21 So he brought him into his house, and gave fodder to the donkeys. And they washed their feet, and ate and drank. 22 As they were enjoying themselves, suddenly certain men of the city, perverted men, surrounded the house and beat on the door. They spoke to the master of the house, the old man, saying, "Bring out the man who came to your house, that we may know him carnally!" 23 But the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, "No, my brethren! I beg you, do not act so wickedly! Seeing this man has come into my house, do not commit this outrage. 24 "Look, here is my virgin daughter and the man's concubine; let me bring them out now. Humble them, and do with them as you please; but to this man do not do such a vile thing!"
In both of these stories we have men offering their daughters to a homosexual crowd in order to protect a guest in their home, why? What would possess these fathers to do such an unspeakable thing?
First of all, let me say that what these men did was sick. I can't even imagine doing such a thing. Having said that, let me try to explain their actions. The Jews had a list of six things to commend a man in the life to come. Does anybody know what was the first thing on that list? It was Hospitality! The crowds demanded that Lot and the old man turn over their guests, this was an unthinkable violation of the protection guaranteed one who comes under the roof of your house. Hospitality is: "loving strangers." We don't usually think of hospitality as one of the top ten commands, but the Jews saw it as number one. Where did the Jew get the idea that hospitality was so important? They got this idea from the Bible!
Leviticus 19:33 (NKJV) 'And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. 34 'The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
Israel was told to love strangers as they loved themselves.
Exodus 22:21 (NKJV) "You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Deuteronomy 10:18-19 (NKJV) "He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. 19 "Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
The Lord threatens judgement on those who don't love strangers:
Malachi 3:5 (GWT) "I will come to judge you. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers, lying witnesses, and those who cheat workers out of their wages and oppress widows and orphans. I will also testify against those who deprive foreigners of their rights. None of them fear me," says the LORD of Armies.
In speaking of his credits, Job said:
Job 31:32 (NKJV) (But no sojourner had to lodge in the street, For I have opened my doors to the traveler);
Now, with that in mind, notice what the hosts say in both of these passages that we began with:
Genesis 19:8 (NKJV) "See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof."
Judges 19:23 (NKJV) But the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, "No, my brethren! I beg you, do not act so wickedly! Seeing this man has come into my house, do not commit this outrage.
Lot says, "...since this is the reason they came under the shadow of my roof", and the old man says, "...seeing this man has come into my house...." They are both trying to protect the guest in their homes. This was no doubt driven by hospitality.
Now, these are bazaar incidents of hospitality, but they show us the importance that the Jews placed on it. God not only wanted Israel to love strangers, He wants the same from us, his church.
1 Peter 4:9 (NKJV) Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.
The word "hospitable" comes from the Greek word philoxenos, which comes from two Greek words; philos, which means: "to love" and xenos, which means: "a stranger." So, "hospitality" means: "love to strangers." The word "strangers" doesn't necessarily mean that they are strange, it normally applied to travelers and aliens, people we don't know.
As we study this topic today, we're going to see that hospitality is something that we are commanded to do whether we feel like it or not. The Bible commands us to love others despite how we might happen to feel about them. Love is primarily an action, not a feeling. So, if hospitality is "loving strangers", then we need to recognize from the beginning that we cannot base our hospitality on how we feel about those we are ministering to. If we rely on our feelings, then we will tend to neglect our duty to show hospitality. Hospitality is a duty of love, which is why commands about hospitality were linked together with commands to love:
Hebrews 13:1-2 (NKJV) Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.
The writer commands them to "let brotherly love continue" and then he says, "Do not forget to entertain strangers." The words, "entertain strangers" are from the Greek word philonexia. It is the same word we saw in 1 Peter 4:9. So, the writer of Hebrews is saying that "entertaining strangers" is a matter of love.
John 13:35 (NKJV) "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
John Owen, in commenting on this verse, said, "The love which is among His disciples is that whereupon the Lord hath laid the weight of the manifestation of His glory in the world" Think about that! The Lord Jesus Christ has tied up in the love which His people show toward one another the manifestation of His glory in this world.
The demonstration of Christian affection between the people of God is a far more weighty argument with unbelievers than any apologetics.
Hospitality is a lot of work. It is often inconvenient. It can ruin your plans and invade your privacy. It may not even be enjoyable. That is why sayings such as these have arisen: "To entertain gracefully, you need to have tact. Tact is the ability to make your guests feel at home when you wish they really were." And "Visits always give pleasure - if not the coming, then the going." Hospitality is something that we may tend to complain about having to do. So Peter wrote:
1 Peter 4:8-9 (NKJV) And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins." 9 Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.
Again, hospitality is linked to love, and Peter says we should do it without grumbling. We hear grumbling like this all the time. Complaining about having to take care of guests on top of our already too busy schedules.
I read something that made me feel really guilty. So I'd like to share it with you, too! Dr. David Batsone told the following story to illustrate Christian hospitality:
A flatbed truck of Salvadoran refugees lumbered down the main road of the village and stopped in front of us. The refugees were fleeing the aerial bombardment that we could hear in the distance. They carried all of their meager worldly possessions with them.
My wife and I were eating lunch at an old wooden table outside the one-room cardboard-and-palm-leaf hut of our hostess, Sandra, and her family. Twelve people lived in that small hut, and the lunch that Sandra had prepared for us went well beyond the means of her family.
As the truck dropped off some people who were seeking shelter with relatives in the village, Sandra jumped up and grabbed the tortillas and beans that had not yet been eaten. She ran over to the truck and gave the food to the refugees, who wasted no time in filling their empty stomachs.
Returning to the hut with a joyful smile on her face, Sandra said, "Isn't it wonderful that we can serve others? God could have called the angels to do all of the work that needs to be done. God doesn't need us, but He allows us to participate!"
How many of us would have the same attitude under those conditions? That is true hospitality. That is love in action. That is a true reflection of our wonderful God who loves us.
God says that showing hospitality is a requirement of Pastors:
1 Timothy 3:1-2 (NKJV) This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach;
Pastors are to be an example to the flock, and God wants them to be hospitable, because he wants all Christians to follow their example and be hospitable also. We have already looked at 1 Peter 4:9 and Hebrews 13:1-2 but notice also:
Romans 12:13 (NKJV) distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
In Romans 12:9-20, Paul gives a list of Christians' duties and one of them is hospitality. The Greek word used here for "hospitality" is philonexia. It means: "loving strangers, a friend to strangers."
The root meaning of hospitality is the Latin word "hospes", which literally means: "guests." In the time of the New Testament, there were no such things as hotels or motels. The only "hotels" around were brothels. So, one of the first practices that the early church set up was the practice of hospitality so that those in the Christian community who traveled, whether for business or for the purpose of preaching and spreading the gospel, would have safe places to go to. By the time of the crusades, the church as an institution set up official hospices - places where officials of the church could stay a night. When the crusades happened, many of these were transformed into care centers for the wounded, sick, and injured. After the crusades, people discovered that they could make a living giving travelers a place to rest , so the hotel was born. These many hospices that were set up became places where the church took care of the poor, sick, aged, and crippled. Thus the concept of the hospital was born.
Today, though, of course the times are different. When people travel, they much more often stay in a hotel, they are safe, and they don't inconvenience others. Still the scriptures repeatedly tell us to practice hospitality to one another, there is still a great need for it today.
There is no doubt that hospitality is very important, so why don't we practice it more? Why aren't we hospitable? We are transient. When we travel, we don't stay with others but in a motel; we eat in restaurants and stay in our rooms at night with only the television for company.
We are independent. We hate to depend on others and go to great lengths to be sure we don't have to. We are busy. Both spouses may work, and after hours they drive the children to music lessons and soccer games. When they attend church, they're still in a rush, both to get there and to get back home. All of these are factors, but the bottom line is that we are selfish; we don't want to be inconvenienced.
Alexander Strauch, in his book, The Hospitality Commands, writes this:
At heart we are all selfish, and selfishness is the single greatest enemy of hospitality. We do not want to be inconvenienced. We do not want to share our privacy or time with others. We are consumed with our personal comforts. We want to be free to go about our business without interference or concern for other people's needs. We don't want the responsibility and work that hospitality entails. We are greedy and don't want to share our food, home or money. We are afraid that we will be used or that our property will sustain damage. All of these attitudes are selfish, and selfishness is sin.
The key to practicing hospitality is to found in:
Philippians 2:3-4 (NKJV) Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Hospitality is a great aid to evangelism. A missionary couple from Africa wrote some time ago, "It is our conviction that the most effective, single way to reach people is through the home. The churches might encourage their members to set aside one day each month in which they would invite unsaved couples over for an informal evening of chatting and perhaps playing games followed by some light refreshments. Then, having enjoyed good hospitality and friendship, the guests would be more receptive to a witness for Christ. More of us should be accused, as was our Lord, of associating and eating with sinners."
One of the most basic acts of hospitality is welcoming visitors to our assembly. The two men that we first looked at were willing to sacrifice their families in order to be hospitable, but are willing to sacrifice our comfort? We're too selfish to be hospitable.
Last week a woman and her three children visited our assembly for the first time. She didn't know anybody here, she found us in the phone book and came to visit. When I talked to her on Monday, she had nothing but good things to say about her visit with us. I always watch to see how the visitors are welcomed. Last week you did an outstanding job in welcoming Rosalind and her family.
Let me say a word here about Catherine. To me it appears that it is Catherine's mission to reach out to the visitors. Catherine was a little late last week, the service had already started when she arrived. As she walked into the room, she immediately noticed the visitors and sat as close to them as she could. Then, as soon as the service was over, she greeted them with enthusiasm. That, folks, is hospitality! We all need to be more like Catherine in that area.
Several months ago a family visited our church, and when the Johnsons found out that they hadn't received their household shipment yet they had them over for dinner and offered to let them the use their washer and dryer. That, folks, is hospitality!
By the practice of hospitality, guests find that there is room in the church. for them, especially in the lives of the members of the church. In a hospitable place, guests can get a taste of what a Christian family is all about. It is in the context of hospitality that visitors can come to appreciate the unconditional love of God for them in Jesus Christ, modeled through us by sharing our lives, homes, personal space, and resources without a demand for performance or expectation of return. People who show hospitality can leave an indelible mark of love in the lives of others.
One of the most neglected practices among Christians in the 21st century is hospitality. There are lonely, hurting people everywhere who need a human touch, a word of encouragement or counsel, and a sense of belonging. What are you doing about it? Do you make any effort to reach out to the visitors?
I'd like to invite you to make a special effort to put your love into action through hospitality. Here are two suggestions to help us put into practice hospitality:
First of all, let's confess our selfishness. Let's admit it to the Lord, and ask him to change our hearts. Secondly, let's pray for joy in serving so we can practice hospitality without complaining.
Erwin W. Lutzer said:
Hospitality is a test for godliness because those who are selfish do not like strangers (especially needy ones) to intrude upon their private lives. They prefer their own friends who share their life-style. Only the humble have the necessary resources to give of themselves to those who could never give of themselves in return.
Let me close with a verse that could be applied to almost any sermon:
John 13:17 (NKJV) "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.