Part IX of our series on Opening Your Home
We learned on Friday that Christians who are rich, in no need of hospitality (read: most of us), are robbing others. We’re robbing them of the opportunity to use their gifts to host Christ and that’s a big deal.
The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:14 that “the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” But like the rich young ruler, we’re too afraid to risk discomfort, so we don’t want to place ourselves in the hands of strangers and “get [our] living by the gospel.”
Quick note here about Paul. He talks in 1 Corinthians 9 and in other places in his letters about how he himself covers his ministry expenses through tentmaking. But even so, two things are important to note: First, Paul agrees that this is the exception, not the rule. The rule is that we “get [our] living by the gospel.” Second, Paul was still profoundly reliant on the hospitality of others as he traveled. He says in Galatians 4:14:
13You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, 14and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus.
But for us, the idea of placing ourselves and our living on a daily basis in the hands of strangers—that’s scary stuff!
How different that attitude is from the Lord Jesus. He had all the riches of heaven, and yet—as we read in Philippians 2:7—he “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” He daily was subject to our hospitality—or lack thereof. But even when we responded by making room for him only on a cross, he forgave us and made that cross the means of reconciliation between heaven and earth.
So that means we have a discipleship skill to learn; namely, how to permit ourselves to be hosted by others as messengers of the living God so that in hosting us they welcome the living God and thus the gospel of the living God.
Note that this is something other than us just wandering around like nameless beggars looking for “three hots and a cot” (i.e., three hot meals and a bed to sleep in). We travel as ambassadors, in the name of the living God and of his Christ. In Matthew 10:41, Jesus says,
41He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. (KJV, emphasis mine)
But we are ambassadors of a peculiar kingdom, aren’t we? Our God holds all things, but he sends us out with nothing, so that those who receive us will also with him receive all things when he comes into his kingdom.
So here we run into the mirror image of doing good to our enemies: letting our enemies do good to us! That is, letting people who are strangers to us and our God host us as we come openly in the name of the Lord, and, in so hosting us, host the Lord and welcome the gospel (which is the announcement that the one who sent us is in now in charge and rules over all things).
So how do we learn to be hosted by strangers and enemies in this way? According to Luke 10, we let them practice on us! And Jesus gives us specific instructions on what to do when they welcome us, and what to do when they don’t.
But how can we, with integrity, still be rich (compared to the rest of the world) and yet go out with nothing?
Here, Christ is our exemplar. Remember, we are mirroring into the world what he did: Though he possessed all things, he left all things and came with nothing except the message and love of his father, which he mirrored into the world.
In the same way, we who possess a lot can still leave it all—for an hour, for a day, or, ultimately, for a lifetime—as we go with nothing except the message and love of Christ, which we mirror into the world.
“Sell all you have, give it to the poor, and come and follow me” can happen either in a single moment in time or as a path we on which we progress through our whole lifetime.
In our next post, we’ll cover three ideas for how to do this. Don’t miss it.