The patriarch Abraham certainly knew how to make someone feel welcome! In taking a closer-than-ever look at Genesis 18 during a recent Bible workshop, I was impressed by his hospitable treatment of the three “men” (really divine beings with a life-changing message) who appeared near his tent in the plains of Mamre.
First, he ran to welcome them, offering them rest, water, comfort, and food. Later he stood by them respectfully and appreciatively while they ate. And then he listened courteously to the seemingly unfulfillable promise they brought: that a son would be born to him and Sarah, his barren wife, when both of them were well advanced in years. Even though Sarah laughed at the very thought of it, Abraham did not.
Abraham’s hospitality included a generous welcome, respectful attention, and open-hearted listening. And this led me to ask myself: Does mine?
• Am I generously seeking to bless others as he did?
• Am I consistently appreciating their true worth?
• Am I open to the ideas they express even when these may be a stretch for me?
And as I considered this excellent model of hospitality, I began to think: Why should this hospitable attitude be limited to those who enter my home?
Just imagine what a blessing it would be if all of us were hospitable, not only to our guests, but to everyone we have contact with, considering how we can be of support to them, valuing what God has created them to be, and honestly listening with open mind and heart to the ideas they have to share. Can anyone think of a better way to promote the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth?
But I soon realized I had to expand this view of hospitality even further. To actually do this kingdom-promoting work, rather than just delight in the thought of it, requires attention, not just to horizontal relationships with others, but also to the all-important vertical relationship with God that is at the very core of this kingdom. So, as I apply this new-found concept of hospitality to the period I reserve each morning for prayer and Bible study, I must ask myself how I’m filling it.
• Am I wasting a lot of this precious time checking my cell phone unnecessarily, making plans, mulling over yesterday’s conversations? Or am I generously welcoming our heavenly Father into my heart and mind and giving Him my undivided attention?
• Am I dutifully plowing through Scriptural passages or perhaps devoting too much of my study time just to the fascinating cultural and historical aspects of the Bible? Or am I truly drinking in His inspired Word, letting it lead me into a deeper appreciation of His goodness, power, and love and of their relevance to human needs?
• Am I focusing only on the passages that are friendly and familiar? Or am I truly willing to listen to what He’s revealing to me even if it demands moving beyond my comfort zone and perhaps even being transformed?
After I began writing this blog, I realized there was still another expansion needed in my concept of hospitality. Why should my God-welcoming consciousness be confined to what I call my “quiet time”? Why shouldn’t He be embraced, appreciated, and heeded 24/7? Wouldn’t that be the best way to leaven each day’s activities with love, joy, and wisdom? It’s certainly not as easy as it sounds. It takes constant vigilance. But especially in the God-centeredness I felt recently as I went beyond my comfort zone for a long-anticipated meeting that never materialized, I’ve seen some evidence of recent progress.
So, I’m grateful for what Abraham has taught me about hospitality. It’s given me plenty to think about! I hope the ideas it’s brought out for me will do more than just that. I hope they’ll help me to express my love for God and for my brothers and sisters in a more intentional and consistent way. And I hope some of them will bless you and others whose lives you touch. Then together we can walk out that prayer, “Thy kingdom come.” I’d love to hear what you’re discovering as you do that.