Hospitality – How we welcome guests and new people says a lot about who we are. How could we recover the art of great hospitality in our groups and create regular times to eat and hang out together over food?
A study on Genesis 18:1-8 and Matthew 25:34-40 for young adults from the Society of Salt and Light, in Christchurch. Part 3 of a series on Community
A quick introduction to the week’s bible passages and theme, which aims to engage people in the big picture of God’s story, and the challenge of living faith in light of that.
When people hear the word hospitality nowadays, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the hospitality industry – cafes, cocktail bars, waiters and over priced under sized meals. Sadly, we tend to think of hospitality as something you only get when you pay for it. But for thousands of years, before flat whites and tiny muffins, followers of God have thought of hospitality as something not only important, but as a central way of actively expressing their faith. In Genesis we see Abraham pulling out all the stops for a bunch of complete strangers, and in Matthew Jesus pretty much says when we look after the poor and needy, it’s as if we’re looking after him. Jesus was pretty well known, and got plenty of flack for attending lots of parties and having a good time with food. Even the whole idea of communion has the underlying theme of the community of God’s followers eating and drinking together.
When we practice Christian hospitality, we’re doing much more than just consuming vital nutrients for our bodies. We’re actually modeling God’s new Kingdom on earth. How? By going out of our way to serve each other, by including strangers, by feeding the hungry, by connecting and talking with the lonely, and by caring deeply about each other. At the heart of hospitality are attitudes of being selfless and giving grace – two aspects of the gospel which are sorely needed in our world.
Here’s a challenge: Imagine if our groups got really good at doing hospitality. So good in fact, we became famous for our dinner parties. Welcoming and warm and hearty – the works. Wouldn’t that be the perfect place to invite our non-Christian friends along too? A place where they can get to know other Christians over a curry, a place where they can experience how amazing Christian community can be at it’s best.
Isn’t it time we recovered the long lost art of Christian hospitality?
For the Scholars
Discussion questions focusing on exploring the bible passage.
1. It’s pretty obvious from the passage in Genesis that the culture of that era took hospitality considerably more seriously than we do today. Why do you think that is?
2. Foot washing is an important act throughout the Bible as a representation of servant hood and hospitality – especially in a culture where sand and sandals were the norm. What would be the equivalent of the physical act of foot washing for people in today’s world? Do you think this idea of serving others has become unpopular in recent times?
3. In Matthew we see Jesus making an inseparable link between Christian hospitality and social justice. What is Jesus getting at here? What are the essential elements of hospitality in light of this justice factor?
4. In Matthew Jesus outlines a reoccurring theme throughout the Gospels – that Christ has a special concern for the poor, vulnerable and needy. Why do you think Jesus keeps bringing this up? What do you think He really means by “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”?
5. The Bible has a strong emphasis on welcoming strangers, while it’s something we rarely talk about as Christian’s now days. Was there a difference between strangers back then, and strangers today? Who are our modern day strangers?
6. Jesus says in Matthew to feed the hungry and clothe the poor – but He doesn’t address the wider issue’s that may have caused them to be poor and in need in the first place. Do you think it’s implied or is it absent for a reason? Is it ever unhelpful to engage in basic acts of hospitality when wider issues of injustice might be at play?
FOR THE DREAMERS
Discussion questions focusing on mulling over the theme.
1. Do you think the idea of enacting out our Christian values during a meal, rather than just telling people about our beliefs, is an effective way of witnessing to non-Christians? Is it OK for people to belong to a community, before they believe?
2. What do you think the key elements for a great night of hospitality are? When have you experienced hospitality at it’s best?
3. Eating food is something that overcomes all sorts of human barriers that can be put up – whatever age, race or gender we are, everyone has to eat. Do you think where our food comes from is important? How does fair trade food, free range eggs, or organic produce fit into the bigger picture of hospitality?
4. Have you ever experienced a time when you haven’t felt welcomed as a guest, or when you’ve felt left out as a stranger? What impact did that have on you? How can we make strangers or new people feel properly welcomed in our group?
5. On the video there were 20 suggested ways that our group could engage in hospitality – which one appealed to you the most? Which one do you think our group should commit to trying? How could our group make hospitality a central act that we do?
6. Inviting strangers into our homes to eat sounds like a risky business now days. Have you ever invited a total stranger into your house? How many risks should we take as we attempt to live out Christian hospitality?
7. Our hospitality to others should be a reflection of our hospitality to God. How do we welcome God into out homes and lives? The Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Mt 12.31) is the only unforgiveable sin, the rejection of God in our lives. How do we seek to be the total opposite of this and fullt accept God in our lives?
Ask someone in your group to share a story about when they had to rely on the hospitality or help of a stranger to get them out of a fix.
Before or after the study organize to have a table meal together with the rule “You can’t serve yourself or ask to be served.” It can be as simple or lavish as you’d like – the main point being to help your group experience how hospitality can help people connect on a deeper level.
Ask them to reflect on how they’d feel about inviting there friends that aren’t Christians to a meal like this. If not, why not?