Give freely to fellow-Christians in want, never grudging a meal or a bed to those who need them. (Romans 12:13)
I just told you how The Living Bible paraphrases this verse as: “When God’s children are in need, you be the one to help them out.” As I said, sharing in the family of God is a sure sign that our faith is authentic, so what I am trying to say is that we when exercise grace, it affects our concern. Living out practical Christianity means that a Christian responds to needs differently than those without Christ: we get personal! This is especially true when we practice hospitality.
Let me ask you something. Is your heart really open to someone, if your wallet and our homes is not? The exercise of grace means that we have a genuine concern for one another, a concern that causes us to act. Read that verse again: “When God’s children are in need, you be the one to help them out. And get in the habit of inviting guests home for dinner or, if they need lodging, for the night.”
In I John 3:16-18, we are told,
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
The Christian, instead of being self-centered, is to be other-centered. Does that make sense? One of the best ways this can be put into practiced is by hospitality. Don’t be like the family I heard of. This family was entertaining a couple from the church for Sunday dinner on a hot, blistering day. When everyone was seated, the man of the house turned to his six-year-old and asked him to say grace. “But, Daddy, I don’t know what to say,” he protested. “Oh, just say what you’ve heard me say,” the mother chimed in. Obediently he bowed his little head and said, “O Lord, why did I invite these people here on a hot day like this?!”
There is something special about opening your home to someone. There is something about sitting around a table that allows you to get to know someone on an intimate level. Even Jesus loved hospitality. He was always sitting around the table, fellowshipping over a meal with someone. In fact, He loved it so much, that he was accused both of being a glutton and a wine-bibber. You know, I don’t believe he cared what they called him, because Jesus was more concerned for that person sitting across the table from him than he was for the food he was eating.
Years ago, a friend of mine told me about his missionary trip to Guatemala. He told me that his hosts were so excited about having an American visit their church and had heard that Americans loved Chicken soup. So, they prepared a special dinner for my friend by soaking a whole chicken—head attached and all—in a broth of rain water and vegetables. I’m thinking, “Yuck,” and it admitted it was hard to eat the “soup,” but he did not want to insult or humiliate them—but the fellowship was so wonderful he never even notice how it tasted.
Jesus was like that. He was a people-person, and we are to be people-people. As we have seen in this chapter, the church is all about people, and practical Christianity is all about people. We are people who are bonded together by God’s design in the local church. We are people who have gifts and ministries to share for the common good. We are people who need one another. We are people who are struggling together to be all we can be for Jesus Christ. We are people who care. We are people who love by grace. And we are people who are seeking to show that love in direct and personal ways.
So what has God said to you today? Have you heard him speak to you, that the exercise of grace in your life ought to affect your character, that you ought to have a genuine love, a love which loves the individual while hating the sin, a love which seeks not to judge people, but to see them transformed by the power of Christ? Have you heard him speak concerning your contacts with the brothers and sisters in your own church or fellowship, how you are, in love, to respond to and recognize one another? Have you heard him speak about your conduct? Have you heard him challenge you to be zealous, to boil in your zeal as you seek to serve the Lord? And what about your convictions? Are you rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, faithful in prayer as a result of your faith in God? Have you heard him speak about how you are manifesting your concern for those in the body of Christ in direct personal ways? Someone said, “God doesn’t change us so he can love us, he loves us so he can change us.” The challenge we have is to respond to his grace today, to love by grace, and be changed to be more like Jesus.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome