By Frank Jamerson
Do you enjoy family reunions, or just endure them? Do you enjoy visits from your relatives? Your answer to these questions tells your attitude toward your family. Many ignore family reunions and spend little time with relatives because they have little in common with them.
One of the beautiful descriptions God has given to his people is the figure of “family.” God is the Father and obedient believers are children. W.E. Vine comments on Patria (family, or tribe), “in Eph. 3:15, R.V., ‘every family,’ for A.V., ‘the whole family,’ the reference being to all those who are spiritually related to God the Father, he being the Author of their spiritual relationship.” Every child of God shares the same Father and should share responsibilities with other children in the family.
How do you feel about your spiritual family? Do you enjoy being with them, or do you just endure it? Do you share the same mind with them? How do you feel about a brother, or sister, “dropping by” for a visit? Do you visit your family?
I realize that there are times when a person may be inconvenienced by someone “dropping by” for a visit, but I am afraid that hospitality has gotten “out of date” with many brethren. Yes, I know that “times have changed,” and people have telephones, etc., but the three angels that visited Abram did not notify him ahead of time that they were coming (Gen. 18), and the two angels that visited Lot did not write a week early (Gen. 19)! The New Testament still says, “Forget not to show love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb. 13:2). It also says that we are to be “given to hospitality” (Rom. 12:13).
Some of my brethren have become so “stiff” that they insist on being called ahead of time, and then it is never convenient for them for you to come tonight! (I know a man who called ten families one week and every one of them had excuses why it would not be a good night for them to have “company.” He used his visitation time listening to excuses over the telephone!) This attitude indicates a self-centeredness that is contrary to the attitude that a Christian should have. If someone calls and asks about visiting you tonight, and you say “tonight would not be convenient for me,” whose convenience are you considering first? The fact that he called and asked about tonight shows that this is most convenient for him. If tomorrow night would have been better for him, he would have asked about tomorrow night! The fact is, at least in too many cases, the person had rather not be visited any night. He has little in common with the fellow member, does not know him very well and is not really interested in learning much about his family.
In addition to being obedient to God’s word (1 Pet. 4:9), hospitality has a number of practical benefits.
First, getting acquainted is associated with getting along. Have you not heard the expression: “They would have to be friends to talk to one another like that”? You can say nearly anything to a friend, but you had best be careful about what you say to a stranger. If a friend does not speak when he walks by, do you conclude that something sinister is going on in his mind? Do we “backbite” friends? Will Rogers said: “There goes a man I don’t like; I think I’ll get acquainted with him.” We usually “don’t like” those we do not know. Many church fusses are simply demonstrations of ignorance. We jump to conclusions because we do not know the facts, and we do not know the facts because we do not know the person. I might add that you can come to the meeting house with an individual for the rest of your life and never really get acquainted with him! If you want to get acquainted, get in his home, or have him in yours!
Second, it is a means of preventing apostasy. If “evil companionship corrupt good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33), what should good companionships do? In describing the early church, Luke said: “And all that believed were together, and had all things common. . . And day by day, continuing steadfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they took their food with singleness of heart” (Acts 2:44,46). This clearly indicates that their association was not limited to “the first day of the week.” Paul told the Corinthians to “have no company” with the fornicator among them, and “no, not to eat” with him (I Cor. 5:9-11). There are too many places where this warning is not needed todayl Brethren never “had company” nor “ate” with him before they withdrew from him! There is, therefore, no pressure put upon the man when he is disciplined. If we associated with one another like we should, many who have fallen away would have been encouraged to remain faithful and those who did fall away would feel a loss when they were no longer included in our friendly associations.
Third, it is a means of influencing those who are not Christians. People are not “converted with kindness,” but many may be lost because of a lack of it! Many churches, and even some that claim to be “of Christ,” have decided that since individuals will not practice hospitality, they will turn the church into a “hospitality house.” This is without scriptural justification, and I oppose it, but brethren it is also against Scripture for us to ignore our responsibilities toward our family, and those who are not yet children of God.
Remember that visiting, and getting acquainted, is a two-way street. You must be willing to visit, but you must also be willing to accept visitors. I do not believe that God is sending angels today, but those who obey God’s word will surely be blessed. Try it!
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 17, pp. 513, 535
September 3, 1987