If God said it, I want to do it, but what did God say?
Am I called to invite well-fed, well-loved brothers to my house after church, and in return go to their house the next week after church? Is that what it's all about? I'm not saying that's not a nice thing. Actually it is. It is a very nice practice; very sweet fellowship.
In the following passage, hospitality is mentioned in the context of hosting traveling preachers or missionaries. It not only praises the brother who has shown hospitality to the traveling preacher, but also points out the wrong done to the church by the one who refuses to welcome them. THis can also be found in Acts when Lydia compels the apostle's company to come to her house. Did she then begin to host a house church?
III John 5-11
5Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. 6They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. 7It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. 8We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth.
9I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. 10So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.
11Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.
In this passage, the context would indicate that the hospitality is in the form of the church meeting in Gaius' house. I think this can also be found in Acts, in fact, I believe that most new testament churches met in homes.
Romans 16:23Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings. Erastus, who is the city's director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings.
In this passage from Matthew, Jesus indicates that hospitality is to be extended to the stranger, not the friend; not the one who can pay you back with reciprocal hospitality or influence because of their attendance or position at your church. This kind of hospitality won't get you a reputation of being hospitable. The act is quite possibly unnoticed and "insignificant" and the stranger is unknown:
35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,
In Romans 12, we are told to "Practice hospitality." This is a simple command, a two word sentence in my translation (the old NIV). The context, however, reveals a depth to the hospitality, that shakes the foundations of my meaning for the word. It specifies bretheren in need, people of low reputation, and enemies.
Romans 12: 9-21
9Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Another passage (not sure where), I'm sure hositality is listed with other "gifts" given to the redeemed by the Spirit.
I have heard some say that they were raised with their house full of strangers. For these people, hospitality may be a matter of obedience, or simply a continuation of a custom. I simply have never heard hospitality stressed in church.
I was raised in a closed home. We had few fisitors, and visited others seldom. If I am to "do hospitality" it is not a trivial matter for me. I have hurdles to overcome. I have issues to work out.
Bare naked and exposed for what I am: proud and inhospitable...God help me.