I spent my childhood longing to explore the world outside my small, farming community in Nebraska. I tried to “play it safe” before attempting new ventures. Careful planning was a key element in any foray. Here are a few examples: I attended a large university where I knew no one; I traveled four weeks in Europe by myself; I tried to be a productive artist (painter) in isolation; and I moved to Washington, D.C. where I knew only one person. By that time I was 23, and after my planning had taken several wrong turns, I was depressed and ready for significant change. That change was following Jesus.
God immediately blessed me by connecting me to hospitable Christians who were not “playing it safe”. Their hospitality challenged me, helping me grow.
Like my hospitable Christian friends, these early Christians sound reckless.
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, (Acts 2:44-46 ESV)
What prepared these early believers for this largesse? Maybe experiences like this:
And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. (Matthew 15:33-38 ESV)
I imagine Jesus’ disciples…ready to “play it safe”… guarding their stash of bread and fish, thinking it wasn’t relevant to providing a meal for that huge crowd. Their protective instincts were heightened by the fact the crowd was overwhelmingly large and composed mostly of Gentiles. Holy Spirit hospitality wasn’t yet embedded into their radar. But this event and others factored into their perspective when the events of Acts 2 rolled around.
Let me relate their changed mindset to my experience.
Early in my walk with Christ, I was encouraged by the invitation of a particularly hospitable Christian couple who made me part of their family. I lived with them, they employed me, and we did ministry together. They not only welcomed me (the normal person who paid rent) but many others while I was with them. Some had strange faith, some had weird behavior, and some only offered need.
Sometimes I wanted to guard my “stash” and gain a sense of normalcy with a cozy circle of predictable Christians. But Jesus was calling me to sacrificial hospitality – not so I could get special kudos – but because others were in “such a desolate place”.
This kind of hospitality is sacrificial because it can’t be repaid. In Matthew 15 Jesus asked his disciples to relinquish all they had to eat. They then saw this generosity multiplied, not for personal benefit, but to further God’s kingdom.
Are we holding back our stash and playing it safe from those in desolate places? Let us allow the Holy Spirit to continue calling us into the partnership of his generous, sacrificial hospitality.