Open Your Door, Open Your Heart
submitted by Reverend Chris Shreeve
[serving 11 churches within the East Norfolk Methodist Circuit]
Long before the church had pulpits and baptisteries, she had kitchens and dinner tables. "The believers met together in the Temple every day. They ate together in their homes, happy to share their food with joyful hearts" (Acts 2:46
NCV). "Every day in the Temple and in people's homes they continued teaching the people and telling the Good News—that Jesus is the Christ" (Acts 5:42 NCV).
Even a casual reading of the New Testament unveils the house as the primary tool of the church. "To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer . . . and to the church in your house" (Philem. vv. 1-2). "Greet Priscilla and Aquila . . . the church that is in their house" (Rom. 16:3, 5). "Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house" (Col. 4:15).
It's no wonder that the elders were to be "given to hospitality" (1 Tim. 3:2 KJV). The primary gathering place of the church was the home. Consider the genius of God's plan. The first generation of Christians was a tinderbox of contrasting cultures and backgrounds. At least fifteen different nationalities heard Peter's sermon on the Day of Pentecost. Jews stood next to Gentiles. Men worshipped with women. Slaves and masters alike sought after Christ. Can people of such varied backgrounds and cultures get along with each other?
We wonder the same thing today. Can Hispanics live in peace with Anglos? Can Democrats find common ground with Republicans? Can a Christian family carry on a civil friendship with the Muslim couple down the street? Can divergent people get along?
The early church did—without the aid of sanctuaries, church buildings, clergy, or seminaries. They did so through the clearest of messages (the Cross) and the simplest of tools (the home).
Not everyone can serve in a foreign land, lead a relief effort, or volunteer at the downtown soup kitchen. But who can't be hospitable? Do you have a front door? A table? Chairs? Bread and meat for sandwiches? Congratulations! You just qualified to serve in the most ancient of ministries: hospitality. You can join the ranks of people such as . . .
Abraham. He fed, not just angels, but the Lord of angels (Gen. 18).
Rahab, the harlot. She received and protected the spies. Thanks to her kindness, her kindred survived, and her name is remembered (Josh. 6:22-23; Matt. 1:5).
Martha and Mary. They opened their home for Jesus. He, in turn, opened the grave of Lazarus for them (John 11:1-45; Luke 10:38-42).
Zacchaeus. He welcomed Jesus to his table. And Jesus left salvation as a thank-you gift (Luke 19:1-10).
And what about the greatest example of all—the "certain man" of Matthew 26:18? On the day before his death, Jesus told his followers, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says: The chosen time is near. I will have the Passover with my followers at your house'"
How would you have liked to be the one who opened his home for Jesus? You can be. "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" (Matt. 25:40 NIV). As you welcome strangers to your table, you are welcoming God himself.
Something holy happens around a dinner table that will never happen in a sanctuary. In a church auditorium you see the backs of heads. Around the table you see the expressions on faces. In the auditorium one person speaks; around the table everyone has a voice. Church services are on the clock. Around the table there is time to talk.
Hospitality opens the door to uncommon community. It's no accident that hospitality and hospital come from the same Latin word, for they both lead to the same result: healing. When you open your door to someone, you are sending this message: "You matter to me and to God." You may think you are saying, "Come over for a visit." But what your guest hears is, "I'm worth the effort."
Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.
(1 Peter 4:9-10 NLT)
Heavenly Father, you have given me so much—every breath I take is a gift from your hand. Even so, I confess that sometimes my own hand remains tightly closed when I encounter the needs of others. Please open both my hand and my heart that I might learn to delight in taking advantage of the daily opportunities for hospitality that you present to me. Help me remember, Lord, that when I show your love in tangible ways to "the least of these," I am ministering directly to you. As you help me open my heart and hand, O Lord, I ask that you also prompt me to open my door to those who need a taste of your love and bounty. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.
Copyright (Thomas Nelson, 2010) Max Lucado