Theme: Reward for being hospitable
Bible reading: Matthew 9:35 -10:8
Brothers and sisters in Christ, I will get to the text we are supposed to reflect on in a moment, but let me quickly draw your attention to 1 Corinthians 13 which I think provides a solid foundation for our reflection. Should I be asked to summarise 1 Corinthians 13 into one simple sentence, it will be the following: I am nothing without love! You see, love is a life-giving miracle. We are human and frail, and we were nothing until God’s love arrested us and made us whole. Now, as people of faith, we are supposed to be pregnant with the love of God. The love of God is the light of God shining through us. Our life is supposed to be a window through which this light of grace must shine to reach others. So, we cannot simply let this light of God that is supposed to be shining in and through us to be muffled in privacy and obscurity.
One way to let this light of grace shine through you is to be hospitable. Hospitality is an act of righteousness. Biblical hospitability is the mark of a righteous person. It is making yourself available to the other with no reciprocal expectation. Hospitality is having the capacity to care. Biblical hospitality challenges our tendency to be selfish, unconcerned and unreasonable. It impels us to be intensely concerned for one another. Those who are not hospitable do not care and are also incapable of restraint. The tragedy is this, if you do not care, then you have lost your capacity to be human. If I am not hospitable, then I do not care. If I do not care, then I do not love. And if I have no love, then I am nothing!
The life of Jesus reveals to us that hospitality is a spiritual mandate. So that those who render themselves incapable of hospitality are effectively contradicting Jesus’ position on the subject. The text we are reflecting on today is a vivid example of Jesus’ acts of hospitality. In Matthew chapter 9, we experience the remarkable power and pity of Jesus. He heals a paralytic, he restores life to a ruler’s daughter, he heals a woman subject to bleeding for twelve years, he restores sight to two blind men and he casts the devil out of the possessed. He forgives sins, and freely engages publicans and sinners in conversation. With compassion, he preached the gospel to the multitude. Jesus did not only preach, he also provided preachers for the multitude. Jesus’ ministry was holistic. He cared for the whole person.
Matthew chapter 10 may be considered as Jesus’ ordination sermon when he elevated his disciples to the degree and dignity of apostles. Here, Jesus charges the apostles to be hospitable in their duty. He instructed them to preach and perform miracles. He instructed them as to how they must behave themselves and encouraged them to bear up cheerfully in their sufferings.
Now, within the context of our text today (Matthew 9:35-10:8) we see that radical hospitality is a spiritual mandate. Hospitality was not something limited to Jesus’ domain. He required it of his apostles. And now, as people of faith, as children of the living God, we are invited to be active participants in this special kind of life style.
In Matthew 9:36, Jesus had compassion on the crowds when he saw them. Precisely because the crowds were harassed and helpless. The crowds were like sheep without a shepherd. So, Jesus called his disciples and empowered them with the authority to extend radical hospitality to these people. Jesus gave his disciples the authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
How are you holding up these days? Do you feel harassed and helpless? Are you battling sickness and disease? Do you feel tired and emotionally drained? Let me remind you most humbly that Jesus is not absent in his acts of hospitality. His hospitality toward us is constantly on full display even though we do not feel that way sometimes. But Jesus does not want us to be preoccupied only with our own feelings. He wants us to examine and re-examine our actions and reactions toward the other. Jesus is concerned about our human relationships. He has called us to be radically hospitable. You see, hospitality is not just the provision of food and shelter.
In biblical hospitality, we extend love, grace and compassion. Hospitality is positive actions and emotions willingly displayed toward the other. A kind smile, a warm embrace, a gentle handshake, a patient wait, an assuring look of approval, an encouraging verbal support or just spending time with someone who needs a listening ear. Biblical hospitality is a gift of our presence, and it is not something that can be externally imposed on us. It is a conscious and self-imposed decision to bring humanity into our relationships in a way that glorifies God. And we can achieve this when we avail ourselves to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our souls. Biblical hospitality is righteousness. So, my question is how important is your desire to live righteously in your relationship with others?
There is no suggestion here to ignore or trivialise your own challenges. God is the Lord of the harvest, so pray ceaselessly when life looks discouraging. But most importantly, avail yourself to those that are overwhelmed with a sense of hopelessness. As a person of faith, you are a labourer in God’s harvest. Your responsibility is to carry the message of hope and renewal in the midst of hopelessness. This work is needful! It must be done diligently and thoroughly to the glory of God. Yes, there is a reward for being hospitable. To be hospitable is to put the love of God that is in us on display. We make an argument for the gospel when we love in a way that glorifies God. When we love, we demonstrate to others that we are redeemed, and they also will come to belief in our redeemer. What an honor it is to represent Jesus’ interest in the world!
May the spirit of the living God empower you to be relentlessly hospitable, and may he fill you with a burning desire to be more like Jesus in every step you take and every move you make. Amen!
Rev. Confidence Bansah (Ph.D.)