Viewpoint: Extend Christlike Hospitality

Contributed By the Church News

  • 3 December 2015

Christ walks with Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus.

Article Highlights

  • Opening our lives and homes to strangers is an expression of Christlike love.
  • In our homes we can share healthy relationships, privacy, wisdom, time, talents, financial resources, food, a place to rest, or a place of refuge from the storms of life.
  • We must possess a spirit of faith and charity by inviting to share all that we have been given, including the gospel, with others.

“Throughout time the people of God have been commanded to care for all individuals who are strangers or who may be seen as different.” —Bishop Gérald Caussé, Presiding Bishop

In the book The Church Without Walls, author Thomas S. Goslin II shares the story of a newspaper reporter who visited several Christian churches to see how friendly and loving they were. He ranked his visit based on a point system of his own creation.

A greeting at the door scored two points, a greeting from the pastor got three points, a social hour got five points, and nonthreatening greetings by individual members got ten points. What scored the most was a personal invitation to dinner, which earned 60 points. The churches with the highest scores were deemed the most hospitable, but it’s important to note that the hospitality shown to a visitor, especially in the case of an invitation to dinner, was given out by an individual and not by the church.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary explains that the word “hospitality” means “generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests or the activity of providing food, drinks, etc. for people who are the guests or customers of an organization.”

Opening our lives and homes to strangers is an expression of Christlike love. In our homes we can share healthy relationships, privacy, wisdom, time, talents, financial resources, food, a place to rest, or a place of refuge from the storms of life. Author Nancy Leigh DeMoss said, “The word ‘hospitality’ in the New Testament comes from two Greek words. The first word means ‘love’ and the second word means ‘strangers.’ It's a word that means love of strangers” (Dec. 3, 2002, radio broadcast of “Revive Our Hearts”).

The idea of showing hospitality is one that is not foreign to the followers of Christ. There are many cases from holy scripture of people showing hospitality to others. For example, near the village of Emmaus, two disciples of Jesus Christ were discussing His life and death. They were approached by Jesus but did not recognize Him. They shared their thoughts with Him and discussed the discovery of the empty tomb. As the day wore on, the three reached a point where Jesus indicated He was going to part ways, but the two disciples extended an invitation to the Savior to come with them and enjoy some hospitality together.

“And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further.

“But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.

“And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.

“And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.

“And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?“ (Luke 24:28–32).

Imagine how this New Testament story would have ended differently if these two disciples had not invited this stranger, Jesus Christ, to have a meal with them. Imagine if the disciples were too busy with the cares of their own lives. They would have missed a life-changing spiritual experience. The lives of many people, such as Mary and Martha, Peter, Matthew, Jairus, and others, would have been much different had they not invited Christ into their homes during His mortal ministry. We would be wise to follow the counsel given in Hebrews: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).

After the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, President Gordon B. Hinckley explained that Christlike hospitality softened the hearts of men and women around the world who visited during that time. “The visitors came by the hundreds of thousands. Some came with suspicion and hesitancy, old and false images persisting in their minds. They came feeling they might get trapped in some unwanted situation by religious zealots. But they found something they never expected.

“They found hosts who were gracious and accommodating and anxious to assist them. I do not wish to infer that such hospitality was limited to our people. The entire community joined together in a great expression of hospitality. But out of all of this came something wonderful for this Church. Representatives of the media, so often a tough and calloused group, with very few exceptions spoke and wrote in language both complimentary and accurately descriptive of a unique culture they found here, of the people they met and dealt with, of the spirit of hospitality which they felt” (“The Church Goes Forward,” Apr. 2002 general conference).

Many LDS missionaries over the years have been the benefactors of Christlike hospitality from both members and nonmembers. Being far away from home is difficult, and when people open their homes for meals or gospel discussions, it is a great blessing for all. The missionaries in Christ’s day relied heavily on the hospitality of others, traveling without “purse or scrip.”

At general conference in October of 2013, Bishop Gérald Caussé said: “Throughout time the people of God have been commanded to care for all individuals who are strangers or who may be seen as different. In ancient times a stranger benefited from the same obligation of hospitality as a widow or an orphan. Like them, the stranger was in a situation of great vulnerability, and his survival depended on the protection he received from the local population. The people of Israel received precise instructions on this subject: ‘But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt’ (Leviticus 19:34)” (“Ye Are No More Strangers”).

As disciples of Jesus Christ ours is not the place to judge the circumstances of others to determine who is worthy of our time, love, or hospitality. “Use hospitality one to another without grudging” (1 Peter 4:9). We must possess a spirit of faith and charity by inviting to share all that we have been given, including the gospel, with others in similitude of the Savior Jesus Christ, who shared His very life with all of us.