by Dr. Leonard Westphal
I was raised in Brazil in a very sociable and hospitable home. With great fondness I remember all those people eating in our home, and how my parents enjoyed having them over for fellowship. Early on they impressed on my heart the importance of hospitality.
The Bible lists 21 different gifts God gives His people in 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 4. But look how many times Christians are called to be hospitable:
In Romans 12:13, the apostle Paul urges us to practice hospitality.
Hebrews 13:2 reads, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.”
In 1 Timothy 3:1–7 Paul mentions that one of the qualifications required of a bishop or pastor is to practice hospitality. And since we’re all called into ministry by Jesus, we must do likewise.
The Gift of Hospitality
Think of the friendship between Jesus, Lazarus, and his sisters. He enjoyed their hospitality, and out of this grew a very close friendship.
My wife Rita and I believe the Lord has graciously given us the gift of hospitality, which we’ve taken on as a ministry we call “social evangelism.” We attend the Campus Hill Seventh-day Adventist Church here in Loma Linda, California, and we’re blessed to have a lot of visitors from other states and countries. So during the worship service we scan the church for those who look like they’re not quite sure where to go and what to do. After the service, we make our way to them and invite them over for lunch and fellowship.
On average we’ll be blessed to host eight to ten people each week. We’ve discovered that cooking for two or 10 really takes about the same amount of work! Lunch usually consists of five different dishes and a tossed salad, and it gives us the opportunity to get to know people on a personal level. In fact, over the past five years we’ve been blessed to have over 300 people to our home for a Sabbath meal.
Once we have eaten together, we sit in the living room and go around the room, introducing ourselves to each other and becoming acquainted with everyone. We talk about God’s work around the world, and, of course, we share about 3ABN. Then we sing and pray together, and what wonderful, lasting friendships we’ve made over the years! I dare say that most people forget the sermon given by the pastor in a couple of days, but they never forget the meal and fellowship we shared. Wherever and whenever we meet those who have been in our home, there’s an instant recollection and reflection on that special occasion.
Dying of Loneliness
I recently read an article in the Los Angeles Times about a woman who had written a letter to the editor in which she stated that she was dying of loneliness! Her sad words told them that no one had visited or called her for over 20 years, and she ended with the desperate plea, “Please have someone call or write to me.”
My dear friends, this doesn’t just happen in the big cities. There are many, many people dying of loneliness right in our own churches! Therefore, Rita and I have made a decision to make sure we invite people to our home who don’t normally get an invitation. I can’t tell you what tremendous joy and spiritual satisfaction we feel as we contribute to God’s work in this way. Won’t you consider extending your friendship to someone this Sabbath? I promise you the blessings will be immediate and abundant!
—From the October 2011 issue of 3ABN World