Christian Hospitality in a Divided World
“We, therefore, are under obligation to receive such persons hospitably, that we may become fellow workers in the truth.”—3 JOHN 8.
1. What most desirable gifts has the Creator given mankind?
“MANKIND have nothing better under the sun than to eat and drink and rejoice, and that it should accompany them in their hard work for the days of their life, which the true God has given them under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 8:15) With those words the ancient Hebrew congregator tells us that Jehovah God not only wants his human creation to be joyful and happy but also provides the means for them to be so. Throughout human history one common desire among people everywhere appears to be to enjoy themselves and to have a good time.
2. (a) How have mankind abused what Jehovah purposed for them? (b) What is the result?
2 Today we live in a hedonistic society in which people are preoccupied with the pursuit of pleasures and good times. Most people have become “lovers of themselves, . . . lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God,” as the Bible foretold. (2 Timothy 3:1-4) This, of course, is a gross distortion of what Jehovah God purposed. When the pursuit of good times becomes an end in itself, or when self-gratification becomes the sole objective, there is no true satisfaction, and ‘everything becomes vanity and a striving after wind.’ (Ecclesiastes 1:14; 2:11) On this account the world is filled with lonely and frustrated people, which, in turn, leads to many of the problems in society. (Proverbs 18:1) People become suspicious of one another and become divided racially, ethnically, socially, and economically.
3. How can we find true joy and satisfaction?
3 How different things would be if people imitated Jehovah’s way of dealing with others—being kind, generous, hospitable! He made it clear that the secret to true happiness does not lie in our trying to satisfy our own desires. Rather, this is the key: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) To find true joy and satisfaction, we must overcome barriers and divisions that might hem us in. And we must reach out to those who are serving Jehovah along with us. It is essential that we heed the counsel: “We, therefore, are under obligation to receive such persons hospitably, that we may become fellow workers in the truth.” (3 John 8) Showing hospitality to deserving ones, to the extent that our circumstances allow, pays dividends in two ways—it benefits both the givers and the receivers. Who, then, are among the deserving ones whom we should ‘receive hospitably’?
“Look After Orphans and Widows”
4. What change in family relations is seen even among some of Jehovah’s people?
4 Stable families and happy marriages are a rarity today. Rising divorce rates and the increasing number of unwed mothers around the world have drastically changed the traditional family. As a result, many who have become Jehovah’s Witnesses in recent years are from broken families. They are either divorced or separated from their marriage mates, or they live in single-parent families. In addition, as Jesus foretold, the truth he taught has resulted in divisions in many families.—Matthew 10:34-37; Luke 12:51-53.
5. What did Jesus say that can be a source of encouragement to those in divided families?
5 It warms our heart to see new ones take a firm stand for the truth, and we often comfort them with Jesus’ encouraging promise: “Truly I say to you men, No one has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the good news who will not get a hundredfold now in this period of time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, with persecutions, and in the coming system of things everlasting life.”—Mark 10:29, 30.
6. How can we become ‘brothers, sisters, mothers, and children’ to the “orphans and widows” in our midst?
6 Who, though, are these ‘brothers and sisters and mothers and children’? Just seeing a large number of people at a Kingdom Hall, often a hundred or more, who call themselves brothers and sisters does not automatically make a person feel that these are his brothers, sisters, mothers, and children. Consider this point: The disciple James reminds us that for our worship to be acceptable to Jehovah, we must ‘look after orphans and widows in their tribulation and keep ourselves without spot from the world.’ (James 1:27) That means that we must not allow worldly attitudes of economic pride and class superiority to shut our door of compassion toward such “orphans and widows.” Rather, we must take the initiative to extend to them our fellowship and hospitality.
7. (a) What is the real purpose of being hospitable to “orphans and widows”? (b) Who also may be able to share in showing Christian hospitality?
7 Showing hospitality to “orphans and widows” does not always involve making up for what they may lack materially. Single-parent families or religiously divided households are not necessarily financially strapped. However, the wholesome association, the family atmosphere, the fellowship with persons of various ages, and the sharing of spiritual good things—these are aspects of life that are treasurable. Thus, remembering that it is, not the elaborateness of the occasion, but the spirit of love and unity that counts, how fine it is that, at times, even “orphans and widows” can share in showing hospitality to fellow Christians!—Compare 1 Kings 17:8-16.
Are There Foreigners Among Us?
8. What change is seen in many congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
8 We live in a time of massive population movement. “More than 100 million people around the world are living in countries of which they are not citizens, and 23 million are displaced in their own countries,” says World Press Review. A direct result of this has been that in many areas, especially in larger cities, congregations of Jehovah’s people that were once made up mostly of one race or nationality now contain people from different parts of the world. Perhaps this is true where you are. How, though, should we view these “aliens” and “foreigners,” as the world may call them, whose language, customs, and life-style may be different from ours?
9. What serious pitfall can ensnare us regarding our view of the “aliens” and “foreigners” coming into the Christian congregation?
9 Simply put, we must not allow any xenophobic tendencies to make us feel that we are somehow more deserving of the privilege of knowing the truth than are those who came from a strange or so-called pagan land; nor should we feel as though these newcomers are infringing on the use of the Kingdom Hall or other properties. The apostle Paul had to remind some first-century Jewish Christians, who harbored such views, that really no one was deserving; it was God’s undeserved kindness that made it possible for anyone at all to gain salvation. (Romans 3:9-12, 23, 24) We should rejoice that God’s undeserved kindness is now reaching so many people who had, in one way or another, been denied the opportunity to hear the good news. (1 Timothy 2:4) How can we show that our fondness for them is genuine?
10. How can we show that we are genuinely hospitable to the “foreigners” among us?
10 We can follow Paul’s admonition: “Welcome one another, just as the Christ also welcomed us, with glory to God in view.” (Romans 15:7) Appreciating that people from other lands or backgrounds are often disadvantaged, we should show them kindness and concern when it is within our power to do so. We should welcome them into our midst, treat each one of them “like a native of yours,” and “love him as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:34) This may not be easy to do, but we will succeed if we remember the counsel: “Quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”—Romans 12:2.
Share With the Holy Ones
11, 12. What special consideration was given to certain servants of Jehovah in (a) ancient Israel (b) the first century?
11 Among those who are truly deserving of our consideration and hospitality are mature Christians who work hard for our spiritual welfare. Jehovah made special provisions for the priests and the Levites in ancient Israel. (Numbers 18:25-29) In the first century, Christians were also urged to care for those who served them in special capacities. The account at 3 John 5-8 gives us a glimpse of the close bond of love existing among the early Christians.
12 The aged apostle John highly valued the kindness and hospitality that Gaius had shown toward certain traveling brothers sent to visit the congregation. These brothers—including Demetrius, apparently the bearer of the epistle—were all strangers or unknown to Gaius formerly. But they were received hospitably because it was “in behalf of [God’s] name that they went forth.” John put it this way: “We, therefore, are under obligation to receive such persons hospitably, that we may become fellow workers in the truth.”—3 John 1, 7, 8.
13. Who among us today especially deserve being ‘received hospitably’?
13 Today, within Jehovah’s organization, there are many who are exerting themselves vigorously in behalf of the whole association of brothers. These include the traveling overseers, who spend their time and energy week after week in building up the congregations; the missionaries, who leave behind families and friends to preach in foreign lands; those serving in Bethel homes or branch offices, who volunteer their services to support the worldwide preaching work; and those in the pioneer service, who spend the major part of their time and energy in the field ministry. Basically, all of these work hard, not for any personal glory or gain, but out of love for the Christian brotherhood and for Jehovah. They are worthy of our imitation because of their whole-souled devotion and are deserving of being ‘received hospitably.’
14. (a) How is it that we become better Christians when we show hospitality to faithful ones? (b) Why did Jesus say that Mary chose “the good portion”?
14 When we “receive such persons hospitably,” the apostle John pointed out, we “become fellow workers in the truth.” In a sense we become better Christians as a result. This is because Christian works include doing good to fellow believers. (Proverbs 3:27, 28; 1 John 3:18) There are rewards in another way too. When Mary and Martha received Jesus into their home, Martha wanted to be a good hostess by preparing “many things” for Jesus. Mary showed hospitality in a different way. She “sat down at the feet of the Lord and kept listening to his word,” and Jesus commended her for having chosen “the good portion.” (Luke 10:38-42) Conversations and discussions with those having long years of experience are often the highlights of an evening spent in their company.—Romans 1:11, 12.
On Special Occasions
15. What special occasions may prove to be happy times for Jehovah’s people?
15 Though true Christians do not follow popular customs or observe worldly holidays and festivals, there are occasions when they do get together to enjoy one another’s company. For example, Jesus attended a marriage feast in Cana and contributed to the joy of the occasion by performing his first miracle there. (John 2:1-11) Likewise today, Jehovah’s people have happy times together on similar special occasions, and appropriate celebration and festivity add much to such events. What, though, is appropriate?
16. What guidelines do we have as to proper conduct even for special occasions?
16 From our study of the Bible, we learn what is appropriate conduct for Christians, and this we follow at all times. (Romans 13:12-14; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:3-5) Social gatherings, whether in connection with weddings or for any other reason, do not give us license to abandon our Christian standards or to do something that we would not ordinarily do; nor are we obligated to follow all the customs of the land in which we live. Many of such are based on false religious practices or superstitions, and others involve conduct clearly unacceptable to Christians.—1 Peter 4:3, 4.
17. (a) What factors show that the wedding feast in Cana was well organized and properly supervised? (b) What indicates that Jesus approved of that occasion?
17 Reading John 2:1-11, it is not difficult for us to see that the occasion was an elaborate one and that quite a large number of guests were there. However, Jesus and his disciples were “invited” guests; they did not just drop in, even though at least some of them likely were related to the host. We note also that there were those “ministering” as well as a “director,” who would give directions as to what was served or done. All of this indicates that the affair was well organized and properly supervised. The account closes by stating that by what he did at the feast, Jesus “made his glory manifest.” Would he have chosen that occasion to do that had it been a rowdy and wild party? Undoubtedly not.
18. What serious thought must be given to any social event?
18 What, then, about any special occasions that we may host? We want to remember that the purpose of receiving others with hospitality is that we might all “become fellow workers in the truth.” Thus, it is not enough to label an event a “Witness” gathering. The question may be asked, Is it in fact a witness to who we are and what we believe? We should never view such occasions as opportunities to see how far we can go in rivaling the world in its devices, in indulging in “the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life.” (1 John 2:15, 16) Rather, these occasions must properly reflect our role as Jehovah’s Witnesses, and we should be sure that what we do brings glory and honor to Jehovah.—Matthew 5:16; 1 Corinthians 10:31-33.
‘Be Hospitable Without Grumbling’
19. Why do we need to “be hospitable to one another without grumbling”?
19 As world conditions continue to deteriorate and people become ever more divided, we need to do all that we can to strengthen the close bond that exists among true Christians. (Colossians 3:14) To this end we must have “intense love for one another,” as Peter urged us. Then, in practical terms, he added: “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:7-9) Are we willing to take the initiative to be hospitable to our brothers, to put ourselves out to be kind and helpful? Or do we grumble when such an opportunity arises? If we do, we nullify the joy we could have and also lose out on the reward of happiness for doing good.—Proverbs 3:27; Acts 20:35.
20. What blessings await us if we practice being hospitable in today’s divided world?
20 Working closely with our fellow Christians, being kind and hospitable to one another, will bring boundless blessings. (Matthew 10:40-42) To such ones Jehovah promised that he would “spread his tent over them. They [would] hunger no more nor thirst anymore.” To be in Jehovah’s tent is to enjoy his protection and hospitality. (Revelation 7:15, 16; Isaiah 25:6) Yes, just ahead is the prospect of enjoying Jehovah’s hospitality forever.—Psalm 27:4; 61:3, 4.
Can You Explain?
□ What must we not overlook if we want to find true joy and satisfaction?
□ Who are the “orphans and widows,” and how should we “look after” them?
□ How should we view the “aliens” and “foreigners” among us?
□ Who are deserving of particular consideration today?
□ How should special occasions reflect the true spirit of hospitality?
[Pictures on page 16, 17]
On festive occasions we can be hospitable to foreigners, fatherless children, those in full-time service, and other guests