“Rest in the shade of this tree while water is brought to wash your feet. And since you’ve honored your servant with this visit, let me prepare some food to refresh you before you continue on your journey.” “All right,” they said. “Do as you have said.” – Genesis 18:4-5
Many people around the country are sitting in family rooms on their computers trying to decide where to take their summer vacation in 2023. Millions of them will put the Florida Panhandle at the top of their list of potential destinations. The percentage of first-time visitors doubled, jumping from 15 percent in 2021 to 31 percent in 2022. Those trends will continue in 2023.
The Florida Panhandle has everything you’d want to fulfill your vision of a sunshine-rich vacation. You have the weather, the white sand beaches, nice restaurants, activities, and attractions. And of course, the churches.
If you like mobs and traffic jams and high blood pressure, the Panhandle is the place to be this summer. It is easy to be cranky during the summer, but God expects us to be hospitable to everyone we come in contact with even if they live far away. Peter got to the heart of hospitality when he urged his readers to “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:9 NIV). Hospitality was a standard practice, out of necessity, in the first century. So Peter reminded Christians to take on this common activity without complaining.
In that same passage on hospitality, Peter tells us to “…show deep love for each other…” and “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” (1 Peter 4:8, 10). Genuine, soul-filling hospitality doesn’t just happen by chance—it must be cultivated.
Genesis 18 offers an example of what it takes to be such a generous host. Abraham honored his guests by anticipating and meeting their needs. He knew they’d be thirsty, hungry, and dirty from traveling. He wanted them to feel refreshed for their journey ahead.
Abraham didn’t half-heartedly practice hospitality. He went above and beyond to serve his guests generously. He didn’t scrounge around in the back of his pantry to see what he didn’t need. “So Abraham ran back to the tent and said to Sarah, “Hurry! Get three large measures of your best flour, knead it into dough, and bake some bread.” Then Abraham ran out to the herd and chose a tender calf and gave it to his servant, who quickly prepared it. When the food was ready, Abraham took some yogurt and milk and the roasted meat, and he served it to the men. As they ate, Abraham waited on them in the shade of the trees.” This did not appear to be a half-hearted effort.
A genuine heart for hospitality is cultivating a desire to use our gifts and offer what we have to serve those around us. Hospitality is a practical way to love your neighbor as yourself.
- How can Christians practice hospitality?
- How does the practice of hospitality help people understand God better?