Jeff Christopherson on the Power of Biblical Hospitality

Jeff Christopherson is a church planter, pastor, author and Missiologist at the Send Institute—an interdenominational church planting and evangelism think tank.

We all like to be entertained. An entire global industry has emerged to satisfy our longing to be amused, to somehow lift us out of the drudgery and doldrums of our ordinary lives. We take it in with reckless abandon, fully expecting to be transported to someplace better, someplace different. And just like any other idol, the gods of entertainment leave us feeling more unsatisfied, desperate, and empty than ever.

So, we’re not very good at being entertained. But how are we as the entertainer?

Entertaining guests is a cultural concept with various regional expressions, few of which translate into biblical hospitality. More recently across North America, “hospitality” is often reduced to a split check at a mutually suitable restaurant.

We may go so far as to invite someone over for dinner, but we tend to do so with those who look like us, talk like us, believe like us, and act like us. And before we even consider having these friends around, we’ll carefully engineer our homes and shape and polish our personas to communicate the best version of who we are—or at least the image that we hope to project.

But despite our cultural norms being increasingly bent toward a regaling spectacle, biblical hospitality and entertainment are not co-equal siblings. They’re really not even second cousins. In fact, they may be sourced from two opposing realms.

True hospitality is a cultural expression of other-oriented kingdom living. It transcends regional expectations of gourmet performance and focuses its energies on the blessing of honest and sincere relationships. It isn’t concerned with projecting an image of manicured lives devoid of stress, mess, and chaos. Instead, biblical hospitality flips the camera lens from a selfie to a wide-angle, pointed outward toward the lives of others, warmly inviting them into ours.

Here are four characteristics that distinguish biblical hospitality from entertainment:

Entertainment Impresses. Hospitality Blesses.

The first distinction between entertainment and hospitality is one of orientation. It answers the question: “Who is the center of attention?” If I am the center of attention, then my goal is to impress those who enter my orbit. I want them to leave spellbound by me—my wisdom, my ability to manage life, my winsomeness, the obedience of my children, or the cleanliness of my house.

Entertaining others puts me on center stage and my guests as a fawning audience. A win is measured by the degree to which my guests leave impressed or—better yet—reverential by the spectacle they have just observed.

If, on the other hand, my guests are the focus, then my goal is not to impress them, but to bless them. I want them to leave enriched and encouraged—better for having been in my life. I see my guests as I see myself, with pains and fears and disappointments, and hospitality becomes an opportunity to enter into those broken areas with the grace of Jesus Christ. Hospitality blesses.

Entertainment Stresses. Hospitality Savors.

The second distinction between entertainment and hospitality is one of aspiration: It answers the question: “What is my purpose?” The effort required to impress is immense because, let’s be honest, few of us are really that impressive. So, we fake it.

We stress about how to create the illusion of something we know we don’t actually possess. Entertaining others becomes an emotionally taxing façade that requires constant management so that no cracks can be seen.

Hospitality allows me to relax. I can enjoy being in the presence of another person created in the image of God. I give them attention, and I listen without the need to keep all the plates around me spinning. I simply savor the moment God has given me to enter the life of another and to bring them hope and help. The evening’s highlight is not a well-presented table, but the precious lives seated around that table. Hospitality savors.

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Source: Christianity Today