“But hospitable…” (Titus 1:8)
As Paul listed the character qualities Titus was to use to appoint leaders in among the many new churches on the island of Crete, we see here that he mentioned the practice of hospitality. This means that God regards this as one characteristic of a person qualified for leadership among the people of God. God sees if we are hospitable or not; God cares if we are hospitable or not.
The ancient Greek word that we translate hospitable is philoxenos, which simply means “lover (philo) of strangers (xenos).” It is a mark of godly character to love more than those of your own family or group, but to also have a love for strangers and foreigners.
By nature we may stick to our selves or to our own group. It may seem dangerous or foolish to extend love to strangers. But that is how God loved us. The Bible says that at one time we were strangers from God (Ephesians 2:12 and 2:19). When we were strangers from Him, He showed His love to us and invited us into His home.
The importance of hospitality ran deep in the ancient Middle East. When travelers crossed great distances over dry and dangerous ground, the hospitality of a stranger’s tent might mean the difference between life and death. Failing to help a needy stranger was a disgrace, and the gift of simple hospitality was greatly appreciated.
We love Psalm 23 as a beautiful description of God as our shepherd – and He is. But Psalm 23 also describes God as our host. He prepares a table for us, even in the presence of our enemies (Psalm 23:5). As we come into God’s house He soothes our head with oil, a customary greeting practice among those ancient peoples (Psalm 23:5). He fills our cup with refreshment, so much so that it runs over (Psalm 23:5).
As it is with God, so it should be with His people. They should show the practice of hospitality with open homes and open hearts, giving this gift to both friends and strangers. It isn’t done to impress them with what wonderful hosts we are or how many beautiful things we have, but to bless them in Jesus name and to open our lives to them.
Romans 12:13 says that God’s people should be “given to hospitality.” That word “given” is a strong word, sometimes translated “persecute” (as in Romans 12:14). The idea is to “pursue” people you don’t know with hospitality. This is love in action, not just feelings – and something for every Christian, not only leaders. Open your home and your live to someone else soon.