For many years now Mrs. Cindy Bush, widow of L. Russ Bush, former Academic Dean of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, has taught a course in the Biblical Women’s Institute program entitled “The Ministry of Hospitality”. Anyone who knows Cindy even a little will confirm that her cup of gifts overflows with hospitality; and if they spend a little more time with her they will discover that she loves God and enjoys using her gift of hospitality to “love on” both the body of Christ and those who need to hear the gospel. I am thankful to know her and to call her friend; and to have learned a few things about the ministry of hospitality from watching her in action.
This semester Cindy is unable to teach the course due to her responsibilities in caring for her aging mother, and I have been granted the blessing of co-teaching this course with another lovely lady gifted in hospitality – Mrs. Charlotte Akin, wife of Dr. Danny Akin, president of SEBTS. Charlotte’s strengths of joyful homemaking and comfortable hospitality are a daily blessing to our school, our students, faculty and staff. Any lady reading this post who might want to consider signing up for this course, click here.
As one might expect, I have been doing my homework on hospitality and, though it is true that certain people are more gifted in this area, Scripture does not present hospitality as an option (1 Peter 4:9; Rom 12:13). Christine D. Pohl in her book Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition emphasizes that hospitality is imperative for those of us who want to walk as Jesus would have us walk. “Hospitality is not optional for Christians, nor is it limited to those who are specially gifted for it. It is a necessary practice in the community of faith…Jesus’ gracious and sacrificial hospitality – expressed in his life, ministry and death – undergirds the hospitality of his followers. Jesus gave his life so that persons could be welcomed into the Kingdom and in doing so linked hospitality, grace and sacrifice in the deepest and most personal way imaginable….Hospitality is a concrete expression of love – love for sisters and brothers, love extended outward to strangers, prisoners and exiles, love that attends to physical and social needs.”
In another helpful book on this subject, Practicing Hospitality: The Joy of Serving Othersby Pat Ennis and Lisa Tatlock, I came across a new word: hospitalitude, coined by author Pat Ennis, “drawn from the word hospitality meaning to pursue the love of strangers and the word beatitude–signifying the character of true faith.” Below is my revised version from Pat’s “Hospitalitudes”. They remind me of a poem my pastor Dad used to quote regularly to our congregation: “Others Lord, yes others, let this my motto be. Help me to live for others, that I might live like thee.”
Happy are those who practice biblical hospitality – because in so doing they are demonstrating their love for God. (1 John 3:17-18)
Happy are those in church leadership who practice hospitality – for they allow others to observe them in their homes where their character, way of life and beliefs are most revealed. (1 Tim 3:1-2, 4:12; Heb 13:7)
Happy are those who love the “strangers” – for they are choosing to obey their heavenly Father’s command and modeling his character. (Lev 19:34) Happy are those who intentionally extend hospitality to “the others” – singles, widows, the grieving, the hospitalized, etc – for they are choosing to live out biblical compassion (James 2:14-16)
Happy are those who include people of all cultures on their guest lists – for in this manner they are demonstrating the expansive love of their heavenly Father. (John 3:16)
Happy are those who are willing to make the sacrifice to practice hospitality – for they understand it is by sacrifice that we begin to learn what it means to walk in love. (I Cor 13)
Happy are those whose homes are both a place of refuge and a center for evangelism – for their honorable actions will bring glory to God (1 Pet 2:12) and they are fulfilling our Lord’s instructions to “do the work of an evangelist”. (2 Tim 4:5)
Happy are those who have consecrated their kitchen and their coffee cups to the Lord’s service – for they have the opportunity of helping others to “taste and see that the Lord is good”. (Ps 34:8)
Happy are those who acknowledge that they are unable to practice true biblical hospitality in their own strength – for they know that the Lord’s power overcomes their weaknesses and allows them to become vessels useful for his honor and glory (2 Cor 12:9-10; Phil 4:13; John 15:5)