“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
You may remember that last week Mark spoke about verse 8 and its emphasis on love. That verse is worthy of our continued mediations. “Above all, keep on loving one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.” That verse emphasizes the priority that love must play in our lives. It takes precedence over everything else. We may breeze over those characters as we read them, but they are some of the loftiest in all of Scripture: “Above all.”
We Reformed folks don’t typically think in these terms. We usually phrase it like this, “Above all, keep on pressing for perfection in doctrine.” Or we say something to that affect. “Above all, make sure that you get every “i” dotted and every “t” crossed when it comes to the five points of Calvinism or the doctrines of predestination.”
Now, you know me as a guy who likes heavy hitting doctrine. You know me as someone who puts a great emphasis on Reformed theology and the doctrine that is laid down in the Westminster Standards. But it is interesting that Peter doesn’t do that. He says that the thing that is to take the highest priority in our lives ought to be love.
For some of us, I think that is a sermon in and of itself. We could glean a lot from that if we spend the day meditating on its implications. But this morning, I want us to focus on verse 9, and on what it says. But it is important to see how verse 9 relates to verse 8. In most of our Bibles, there is a period at the end of verse 8, and verse 9 appears as a completely new sentence. But that is not the way the way it should be. Verse 9 is actually a continuation of verse 8. In all reality, it should read, “Above all, keep on loving one another from the heart, for love covers a multitude of sins, showing hospitality to one another, without grumbling.”
Why do I start this message with this little exegetical lesson? It’s because Peter here tells us that one of the chief ways we “keep on loving one another” is by this thing we call hospitality.
Peter wants you to understand that hospitality is not something that is ancillary to our faith. It isn’t something that is to rate down the charts for us or be an after thought. Peter is saying that love is to be our foremost aim in life, and hospitality is one of the chief ways we express this love.
So as we come to this passage, I want you to keep that in mind. For that will help you see how important this message is today. Hospitality is to be one of our defining traits as Christians. It is that important.
But I would assume, that if you are like most people, hospitality is not something you’ve thought much about. Or, if you are like me, you’ve thought a lot about hospitality, but don’t practice much.
We live in a day that there isn’t much interaction between people. We are a disconnected bunch. We don’t see a lot of people interacting on this kind of personal and intimate level.
But the Bible says that we need to interact on a level much deeper than what you can do on facebook. We need to cultivate deep and meaningful relationships. We need to really reach out and love one another. And the way we do that is through this thing we call hospitality.
And in this passage Peter shows us what is involved in true Christian hospitality. And this morning I want you to understand that God calls us show hospitality by opening our homes and opening our hearts.
As you think about hospitality, I want you to understand that true hospitality means doing something that is quite counter-cultural today. It means having an open house.
I. True hospitality means having an open house
Verse 9 starts off by saying, “Show hospitality to one another.” The Greek word here is rather interesting. It is a compound word. Literally it means “Love of strangers.” And what is the greatest way of loving a stranger? It is by having them into your home and making them feel welcome.
So Peter is essentially telling us not to treat each other as strangers. He’s saying we need to open our homes to one another and fellowship together in places that are more convenient (more conducive) than at our local churches.
Now, as we talk about hospitality and opening our homes, I do believe there can be two different ways to take this. On the one hand, this might be an urgent call to provide assistance to those who are being persecuted.
You can imagine what it would have been like in Peter’s day. They were being persecuted. So someone might be turned away from a job because they are a Christian. Or maybe you’ve were on the run. Maybe you are a real exile, and not just one in the spiritual sense of the term. Maybe you’ve had to flee your home or even your country. If that is the case, then you really are in need of some hospitality.
In this case, then, you need to open your house to this person. And as you open your home you need to see to their every need. It may mean providing just a place at the table for them. It may mean giving them a bed and clothes. As you open your house, you may need to open your wallet too in order secure further provisions or basic necessities.
We recognize that most of the time we don’t just give hand-outs to people. The Bible elsewhere states the principle: If you don’t work you don’t eat. When someone comes to us looking for a hand out, most of the time we don’t do it.
But there are extra-ordinary cases. There may be what we call extenuating circumstances. There might be a time, like this one, when a person is impoverished or has become destitute. It’s not that they are not willing to work. It’s just that they are not able to provide for themselves at this time. They have been stripped of all that they have or their personal estate has been severely diminished for their stance for Christ. And we need to be sensitive to that.
A good example of this is the time in England called “The Great Ejection.” During the Reformation the King of England passed a piece of legislation called “Act of Uniformity.” The Book of Prayer that was used by the Anglican Church was imposed upon all the churches of England. They wanted “Uniformity” in all the churches. But a lot of protestant ministers found this offensive. They wouldn’t compromise their Presbyterian and reformed beliefs, and conform to anyone other than Christ. As a result they were ejected from their churches. (And, btw, if you didn’t conform, there were severe penalties. You would be stripped of all your wages and you would spend at least 6 months in prison.)
Over 2000 ministers lost their jobs that day. They were at the mercy of Christ, and they were wholly dependent upon the hospitality of other believers for a while.
I mention this because it is something that may be very relevant to us today. We could easily see this happening in our day. Perhaps even in the near future. Maybe one of you would be so bold as not to conform to the “uniformity act” of our day. I don’t know much about it, but there is talk of mandating coverage for abortions and abortifacient drugs. The Humanistic church of the humanistic faith is pressing for uniformity in the land.
As Christians, we cannot submit ourselves to that kind of thing. So we’ll have to stand up. But standing up might mean that we are kicked out. That’s when the rest of us would need to sacrifice for our brothers and sisters in Christ. We would have to show some real hospitality in that kind of thing ever happened.
I wonder, would you be able to do that? Would you be able to have another family stay with you for a couple days? A couple weeks? Maybe even a couple months until they are able to get back on their feet? I bet for some of you that would be a real stretch. But that is what the Lord commands us to do.
Now, that is an example of the most basic form of hospitality. That’s what we might call the urgent care kind of hospitality.
But there is another form of hospitality, and I would assume that this is the one that is most familiar to us. It is simply having other people into our homes and hosting them for an evening.
Peter might be talking about this form of hospitality. It is not altogether clear from the text. But this may be what he intends. After all, what do people who are facing persecution need most? Isn’t our greatest need during those times the regular fellowship and encouragement that comes from spending time with one another?
But even if you are not being persecuted—let’s say that you just live each day in the world, there’s nothing better than spending time with other brothers and sisters in Christ? The fellowship you have, the communion you share, has a revitalizing effect upon you.
That might be what Peter intends. And certainly that’s something we need to take to heart. We need to open our homes to one another. Especialy us too! We are a church that is rather spread out. We need this so that we can develop deep and meaningful relationships.
And this is where I really want to challenge you all. I want to challenge you to have an open door policy. Really I want you to be intentional about having people into your homes. There is no better way to increase the unity of our church than being in the confines of each other’s homes. There’s no better way to facilitate the care and mutual encouragement that is supposed to go on within the body of Christ than in some good old fashioned hospitality.
And before we go on to the next point, let me give you a quick tip on how to do this.
The first thing you do is invite someone over. Then, once you’ve secured that, you go over to the Save a Lot and you pick up some Oscar Miejer Weiners. When your company comes over, you put them in the microwave for about a minute. Or if you really want to do it up, put them on the grill until they are just starting to bubble and blacken.
The point is that you don’t have to pull a Martha Stewart to show hospitality. You don’t have to pull out the fine china. I’ve found that the more laid back it is the better. Yes, it’s wonderful to shower them with your best. Don’t get me wrong. But sometimes that’s overkill, and sometimes the pomp of it all can be what keeps you from doing it. It gets to be a hassle and you don’t end up doing it.
What is more important than how fancy the place setting is is that your home is open to them—and that they know your heart is open to them as well.
And that is what brings us to our next point. I do want you to understand that that is the real focus of our text. Hospitality is not so much about having an open house as it is having an open heart.
II. True hospitality means having an open heart
You’ll notice that Peter doesn’t just command you to open your house and show hospitality. He says you need to do it “without grumbling.”
And by this extra qualifier we understand that Peter doesn’t just want a raw, outward obedience. He’s addressing a deeper issue. He’s addressing your heart. He understands that hospitality can operate on two different levels. Someone can come into your house, but they may never be truly welcomed there because your heart is not open to them.
You might not have wanted to have them over, and the only reason you are doing it is because you know you are supposed to be hospitable. And so you play host. You go through the motions. You smile and do the whole Martha Stewart thing, but in your heart you’re saying, “Please leave.”
Let’s admit it: Hospitality is not an easy thing. Hospitality means that someone is impinging on you. They are taking time from you that could be dedicated to something else. The cooking, the cleaning, the conversing, you expend a lot of energy when you extend hospitality. And that can be a hassle, and it can make you rather grumpy.
I actually like the Greek word here. It’s goggusmon. As I was studying, I wondered if goggusmon is onomatopoeia. Onomatopoeia is when your word sounds like the word or action for which it stands. Like “spit.” If you say spit right, the person you are talking to should wipe something off of their face. I wonder if goggusmon is onomatopoeia. It sounds like someone grumbling, doesn’t it? “Goggusmon!” You can kind of picture someone throwing down their pots and pans in frustration and saying, “Goggusmon!” Or maybe while they are stirring the soup you hear them murmuring under their breath, “gogusmon.”
I don’t know if it is really onomatopoeia or not. Ultimately it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is the meaning of the word, and that is quite clear. It has to do with your attitude towards those whom you show hospitality. And the point is that there shouldn’t be any complaining that accompanies it.
As I was preparing this message I began by having a slightly different outline. I had originally said that true hospitality means having an open house and a closed mouth. That went with the whole grumbling thing. Just think of some of the things you could say:
Your husband asks you if you could have the Jones’ over after church. But you say, “The Jones’! Why them? They always stay so long!” Or, “I don’t want to have them over, their kids are out of control.”
Or maybe its all the preparations that go into having someone over. The cleaning of the house, the fixing of the food, and so forth. Or it’s the fact that you know God has commanded you to do this, but you don’t really want to do it. And you just get downright touchy about it, “I don’t want to do this!”
And it is true; you might need to keep your mouth closed. But as I thought about it more, it is more than just having a closed mouth. Grumbling and complaining so many times can be expressed without words. A heavy sigh, rolling of the eyes, or simply the thoughts that go through your mind.
That’s why I changed it. When Peter says that this is to be done without grumbling, he’s really going deeper than just your outward expressions. He’s talking about your inward disposition. And he’s saying, when it comes to hospitality, your heart to be just as receptive as your house is. You need to put your personal problems aside—get your mind off of yourself, and begin to open your heart to these other people.
Mrs. Roney paused from her chores to answer the girl. The girl was concerned that Mrs. Roney was doing too much. She already had enough troubles of her own. Now she was attempting to care for a sick neighbor too. Mrs. Roney responded by saying, “Your heart is never so full of its own worries that you can’t crowd in a little care for other folks. If you crowd it so full that some of your own worries get crowded out, there isn’t any great loss.”
She continued by posing a question to the girl, “Have you ever noticed that when you are walking along the road, it isn’t the empty handed people who are lending you a hand? It is always those who have burdens themselves that help you carry your load.”
That’s the essence of hospitality, my friends. It’s about the state of your home as it is the state of your heart. True hospitality is about crowding out your own cares, while crowding in the cares of others.
And if you are ever tempted to skip out on showing hospitality or to grumble about hospitality, I want you to remember where you are right now. Think about the fact that you have opportunity to sit here this morning and enjoy the Lord’s hospitality. Do you know that every Lord’s day our God opens his house to you? This isn’t just any old assembly. This is a sacred time where the Lord Jesus draws us into his presence. Sometimes we may even say that we are going to the house of the Lord. And when we say that we know we are not talking about the building or structure that we meet in. We know God doesn’t live in houses made by hands. But as we gather together each week for worship, we come into the holy presence of God and, in a spiritual sense, we are taken up to the Lord.
What’s more, each week our Lord spreads a table for us to feed us and strengthen us. We have an opportunity to come and celebrate the Lord’s Supper here at the communion table. And every week the Lord is happy to host us. He never grumbles or complains, though he has every right to. He could say, “By gum, here come those little sinners again. All they do is profane my house and irritate me to no end with their lack of reverence and disrespect.
No. Our Lord doesn't do that. He gladly welcomes us through the blood of Christ and he rejoices over us with singing. He loves to sup with us while we take communion together. He loves showing us hospitality
And my friends, we need to remember that as we seek to do what the Lord commands here. He doesn’t just tell us to do show hospitality, he shows us how. And that he does should make us more than willing to do what he says.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.