-In the Apostle Peter’s first letter, he talks quite graphically of how those outside of the church live and what they, “want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you” [1 Peter 4:34 ESV]
These type of activities are nothing new to our own present culture, as one merely needs to step outside in our cities and it is easy to find drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and the like. Humans in the 21st century are no different in essence than humans of the 1st century. When I worked at the rehab clinic, one of the most difficult aspect to the men recovering from their addictions to drugs or alcohol, was that when they got out of our program; the majority of their friends and acquaintances were at the bar each night getting plastered, or were hanging out at each other’s houses shooting up heroin and smoking crack. Overcoming their addiction was directly connected with abandoning the “partying” lifestyle of all the people in their community.
Peter, in his wisdom, realizes that the enticements of these types of lawless activities is exponentially great; who doesn’t like hanging out with fellow men and women? Who doesn’t like ‘letting loose and having fun’? Compared with sitting at a monotone bible study on Wednesday, or a sterile Sunday morning worship service; the parties and communities of the non-Christians seem to be far more lively.
Therefore, Peter has a clear alternative for the Christians to practice, he writes “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” [1 Peter 4:8-9 ESV]. Love and hospitality; Peter’s solution for the New Testament church in regards to the discipleship of the people is a type of sacrificial love, that includes heaps of hospitality.
Hospitality is not merely what occurs when the usher (or greeter) shakes your hands on Sunday morning at your local mega church or small Bible church. Loving one another earnestly and showing hospitality surely incorporates a far more intimate connection between the church and the disciples.
The world offers drunkenness and drugs, seven days a week. There is a bar on every corner, and there are drugs lurking behind every schoolyard. When it comes to community involvement, the enticements of this world are present every single night of the week. The kind of love and hospitality the church earnestly needs to practice in our age, is a type that extends way beyond the walls of church building.
Discipleship involves hospitality. Even more so, Peter tells us to practice this hospitality without grumbling. Does it not seem self evident that Peter realizes some might take his instruction as a type of rule they must obey? In other words, Peter doesn’t want the church to practice hospitality because he tells us to do so; he wants us to practice hospitality because the Holy Spirit has transformed our hearts and minds, and the love of God within us reaches out to those disciples who have been entrusted to us.
Knowing full well that our disciples are daily faced with the enticements of this world; drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, etc., the love of God within us, reaches out to our disciples and in a spirit of earnest love and hospitality, we open up our homes and lives to our disciples that they may grow in their walk with Christ, as they live along side us daily.
This is a difficult cross to bear. This type of Christianity transforms our view of church from something we go to on Sunday and Wednesday, and suggests that making disciples of all men is a 24/7 endeavor. Practicing biblical discipleship is not something we go to do, practicing biblical discipleship is something we bring home to do. Opening up our very homes to our disciples is an immense personal commitment to the body of Christ.
The Apostle Paul believes hospitality to be so central to the Christian walk, that when writing a description for the leaders in the local church, Paul says that practicing hospitality is a requirement for any such man [1 Titus 1:5-9].
Too often, we tend to view Christianity and church, as something that occurs within the confines of our local church building. Yet the great commission of going out into the whole world and making disciples of all men extends far beyond the building. Discipleship involves our entire lives. Discipleship is not something we can compartmentalize; we are either Christians who practice discipleship all the time, or we are Christians in name only. There is no middle ground.
I once sat with a Christian man who had just retired from his job after working in his industry for more than forty years. When I inquired from him what he hoped to do now that he was no longer working, he said it had always been his dream to publish books and lecture at Christian conferences. While publishing books, and speaking at Christian conferences is not wrong in and of themselves, I fear that for many Christians, they tend to view being a Christian as something similar to how we organize our businesses and work life; it involves organized meetings, conferences, etc. Yet being a Christian for the Apostle’s Peter and Paul starts first and foremost in our local community and home; practicing hospitality without grumbling is part of our commission in making disciples of all men.
Whether we have the opportunity to publish a book or speak at a conference should neither be here nor there; it shouldn’t be our focus. Our eyes should be set firmly on God and His word, which then transforms our hearts and minds and compels us toward a type of New Testament discipleship that honors His kingdom.
There is no reason to grumble at the high commission we have been given. We’ve already been told that being a Christian is not the easy way out; it involves picking up our cross daily, and dying to our self. We no longer live for ourselves. As Paul said, “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lords” [Romans 14:8 ESV].