Recently, one of my favorite books of the Bible has been Acts. Acts is a rich book, and I love the layers of it. Every time I read through it, I discover something new that I had not seen before, even though I took a class dedicated to closely reading the book. In reading it through the lens of hospitality, I have found that hospitality is a vital part of making disciples. In this post, we will look at the events in the book of Acts to see how evangelism and hospitality are in a beautiful and effective marriage.
Jesus Told Us to Tell (or Love) Our Neighbors
“‘But you will receive power when the Holy spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’”
If you do not know what Jesus is trying to convey through this statement, let me clarify by comparison. Jerusalem was the home of Jesus’s death and resurrection. It was the hub of the birth of Christianity, and if we look at it with our own lens today, it would represent our family and friends with whom we already share a close relationship. Next, Judea, an area that God gave to His people, could be either our church, our hometown, or the school that we attend. Jerusalem was inside Judea, and it contained God’s chosen people. These Judeans are the people that we may not know, but we feel comfortable and safe if we encounter them.
The next place, Samaria, was the area even Jesus told the people not to go. Samaritans were strangers; they were the “untouchables.” In today’s world, Samaria would be the people or family that we just clash with, the ones we do not get along with and do not attempt to. Jesus, however, breaks the barrier of dislike and unfamiliarity and tells his disciples that they are not only called to tell those who could easily receive the message of salvation but that they are called to be witnesses to those who may not as easily believe in the power of the resurrection. If you are picking up what I am putting down, you can probably guess that the “ends of the earth” means the ends of the earth, the rest of the world around us.
Jesus calls us to be witnesses to those who we like and to those who we do not like, to our neighbors and to strangers. Why would we be witnesses to strangers, though? Wouldn’t being a witness to someone require us to love them enough to tell them about the saving power of Christ over death? Wouldn’t witnessing to others necessitate hospitality in the form of building relationships for the message to be received?
Jesus knew what he was saying when he instructed his disciples to go to Samaria and to the ends of the earth; it was not just a meaningless prophecy. It was Jesus speaking, after all! He was telling them that they will go out and make disciples of all the earth, not just their friends, not just their family, but those who were different than them, those who were strangers.
Christians Shared All Things in Common
“Now the entire group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. With great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them. For there was not a needy person among them because all those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of what was sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet. This was then distributed to each person as any had need.”
This is the story of the earliest Christians. They shared all that they had, and their eyes were opened to the needs of their neighbors. The early Christians knew what hospitality meant. In sharing, they released their love for stuff and valued each other over stuff.
Let’s read that again. The early Christians knew what hospitality meant. In sharing, they released their love for stuff and valued each other over stuff.
As a Result, the Gospel Spread Like Wildfire
“Believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers— multitudes of both men and women.”
“So the word of God spread, and the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly in number, and a large group of priests became obedient to the faith.”
Being a connectional church, the numbers of believers spread as the Gospel, the story of Christ’s death and resurrection, was shared with those around the followers of Christ. In addition to sharing the story of Christ, they also shared their material possessions. Both of these acts of selflessness were acts of hospitality, as the believers made space for the Holy Spirit to work through them and as they made space for others to enter into their lives.
As we see in the verses above, believers kept increasing as the existing believers practiced acts of hospitality. Evangelism, then, is in an intimate dance with hospitality throughout the beginning of the spread of Christianity. What does that mean for us now as we attempt to be the hands and feet of Christ and promote his story?
From an open table,