1 Peter 4:9 “Use hospitality one to another …”
Envision an open-armed, put-together smiling woman welcoming a stranger outside her door. I yearn to be that woman. When the door swings wide, the aroma of warm nourishment swallows up the stranger, and a clean, prepared house and heart beckons. Inside, there’s a soft place to stay and a strong arm to lean on. I yearn to be the host, but more often than not I feel (and look) like a ragged, worn out, stressed out, feeble stranger craving rest and refreshment.
Can you relate?
I’ve been diving into a spiritual study about hospitality – and I’m learning that standing on both sides of the door is acceptable (and even wonderful!). In fact, I’m learning that recognizing ourselves as a straggling stranger is one of the first steps to becoming a gracious, hospitable host.
Peter teaches three ways believers stand as strangers:
- Our strange ways.
Peter uses endearing terms to address believers in his epistles; including the “chosen generation,” “pilgrims,” “a royal priesthood, an holy nation,” “beloved” and (my personal favorite), “a peculiar people.”Believers are peculiar. Compared with the world’s ways, believers look and act quite differently. We keep the Sabbath holy. We think with eternal perspectives. We strive for cleanliness in speech, dress and actions. Peter says, “They think it strange that ye run not with them …” (1 Peter 4:4). And it’s true. We often stand as strangers because of our strangeness.
- We believe strange things.
By definition, strange means, “Unusual or surprising in a way that is unsettling or hard to understand.” Believing that God sent His son to suffer and die for every mortal’s sins should unsettle. In fact, it should jolt us from natural selfishness, shortcomings and complacency.
Peter recognizes that our strange beliefs will attract attention. He encourages us to be ready to respond when we’re asked why we choose to be different.
“… be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason for the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).
- We experience strange, fiery trials.
None escape trials in this life – they’re essential to our purpose and progression. Yet, many question why a loving God would send fiery and strange trials to His faithful believers.
When Peter wrote his epistles, Christianity was a small obscure sect – one generally tolerated by the Roman Empire. An inspired seer, Peter writes of faith “to be tried with fire” (1 Peter 1:7). These words came just a few years before the Great Fire which destroyed Rome and was blamed on Christians by the tyrannical Roman emperor Nero. Nasty Nero then ordered brutal persecutions to the Christians (read more about the history here: http://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/nero).
In preparation for literal fiery trials of that day, and spiritual fiery trials that refine today’s believers, Peter says:
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy”
(1 Peter 4:12-13).
Our strange ways, beliefs and trials often leave us feeling as strangers … yet, those same ways, beliefs and trials enable us to be compassionate, empathetic, gracious and humble hosts. God intentionally provides us with opportunities on both sides of the door. We are not alone in this position.
Once we’ve experienced both sides of the door, we can do something amazing: lift the door off its hinges. By removing the door, we create a wide welcoming space where strangeness is smiled upon, and hosts and strangers graft together. In this space, we love wholly and with a holy love – regardless of if we all share equivalent convictions and sufferings, and regardless of the exact placement of our feet and heart.
As Henri Nouwen said, we want to “… offer an open and hospitable space where strangers can cast off
their strangeness and become our fellow human beings.”
INSIGHT & INSPIRATION
1 Peter 4:4
1 Peter 3:15
1 Peter 4:12-13
Identify times you’ve welcomed and times you’ve been welcomed – and how it felt in each circumstance. Then, for personalized inspiration of how to unite with our fellow human beings more successfully, prayerfully read 1 Peter 5. Consider how Christ’s love removes barriers and pick at two ways you can increase love in everyday living.