In many high school gyms throughout the country, you will find signs over the bleachers that say “home” and “visitor”. As I thought about this context it reinforced something I have understood. It is much better to be a guest than a visitor. A visitor is anyone who comes into your space even if they are rivals. As a basketball fan, we did not always treat the visitors with much respect and did not want their best interest while they were competing against us. Who would want to be a visitor? We call animals that come into our yard visitors. Those who come from out of state to vacation in your state are visitors. Guests are those who are welcome and, in most cases, invited to have a special place within your space. Guests get special treatment. We do not want our special guests to leave. We sacrifice to make sure they are comfortable, and their needs are met.
Hospitality is an important virtue within Scripture. Church leaders are supposed to be hospitable. Widows are told to be hospitable. Hospitality is what we give our guests that is different than we would treat other visitors in our life. In fact, God told Israel to treat sojourners as guests and not just visitors. It is a virtue of accepting people how they are and treating them with the respect they deserve as those created by God. The church is called to continue that same practice.
When we have individuals or families join us for worship or Sunday School on Sunday mornings, we need to treat them as valued guests. I believe our Welcome Team is doing a great job of helping these guests feel welcome. However, we all need to take part in helping them feel comfortable. Treating them as guests and not visitors will help us get past just being friendly and show that we truly care and want a relationship with them. Guests return because of us being friendly but they will only stay if they build relationships. We need to continue to strive to get past just being friendly and make friends. This will come as we practice biblical hospitality to everyone we meet, whether on the streets or within the doors of the church.
Here are some Scriptures to reinforce this idea:
- Hebrews 13:2
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
- 1 Peter 4:9
Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
- Leviticus 19:34
“You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
- 1 Timothy 3:2
Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.
- 1 Timothy 5:10
And having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.
- Ephesians 6:7
Rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man.
- Hebrews 13:16
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
- Isaiah 58:7
“Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”
- Matthew 25:40
“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”