• Jamie McClanahan

The Biblical Priority of Hospitality in a Post-Covid World

We have endured much together over the past year. Covid-19 has destroyed, revealed, and refined much in our society and religious culture. Personally, I believe it has refined and pruned many churches in our area. Intuitively, I sense that when the church does resume and fill again, it will look very different. Many core members will remain at any given local church, but many more attending are unchurched, churchless, and seekers who are wondering about faith in God. The opportunity to personally apply the Gospel to these types of gatherers will be essential in a post-covid world.

Recently, in our Worship services at Wayne Hills Baptist, Pastor Will and I unpacked two scripture passages that emphasized a key idea that we believe must be embraced for the local church to thrive in a post-covid era. The sermon topic was "The Biblical Priority of Hospitality and Compassion for the Local Church in a Post-Covid World." It is a mouthful of a topic but essential for the church to grasp and unpack. Pastor Will explained the basis of this call from Rom. 12:9-13. He emphasized how important it is for our love to be genuine towards one another. He stressed that one of our goals is to serve one another with zeal and fervency when we gather as believers. We are to be hope-givers for those who are hurting. We are to serve others in prayer and by following the command of Rom. 12:13, "Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality." For this to be accomplished, we must demonstrate humility toward and "live peaceably with all" (vs.18b). The great example we have is of our Triune God. The Father sent the Son, the Son willingly came, and the Spirit willingly works for the church's prosperity and unity. Each of the God-head working together was hospitable to the human race, which resulted in redemption and eventual restoration of all things.

In the second half of the service, I unpacked biblical compassion, the sibling to scriptural hospitality. One of the greatest New Testament examples of compassion is the background and parable of the Good Samaritan. In Luke 10:25-38, Jesus provides a master class in teaching and demonstrating compassion. In the background of the parable, Jesus is questioned by an ill-motivated religious leader. Initially, he inquires about the nature and origin of eternal life. Jesus drives him to the Old Testament, his book of expertise, and he answers the question correctly by restating a summary of the law. Jesus then emphasizes that the man “do this, and you will live.” Always, Jesus was not just interested in a person knowing, but surrendering, loving, and obeying. The lawyer asks another question to justify himself by asking Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?" The response Jesus gives is the parable of the Good Samaritan. Most of those reading this blog know the entire story frontwards and backward, so I will not summarize or walk through it. Instead, I want to share with you all Four Marks of Compassion from this Passage.

First, we can observe that Christian Compassion is embodied and exemplified best in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Consider the humble example of Jesus as revealed in Phil. 2:5-11. Paul writes: “5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Jesus and compassion are synonymous in the gospel accounts as well. In fact, 1. At least Nine times in the gospels it is recorded that Jesus “had compassion” or “pity” on those who were without spiritual direction, those who were hungry, those who were sick and diseased, those in mental anguish from loss, and even those afflicted by an evil Spirit. [1] In many ways, Jesus, the outcast of his society, was much like the Samaritan giving aid to those rejected by the religious culture of his day.

Second, Christian Compassion does not merely know God; it is a knowledge that leads to loving obedience. The lawyer in this story answered Jesus' questions correctly (vs. 27-28, 36-37) each time. And yet, he was not willing to take the action step in applying that knowledge. In verse 28, after answering the question about eternal life, Jesus said, "And he said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live." The action is emphatic in this response. Likewise when Jesus asked the man who "proved to be a neighbor" to the Samaritan, he responded correctly by saying, "the one who showed him mercy." In verse 37, Jesus says, “ You go, and do likewise." The action following the correct understanding cannot be overstated. In other portions of Scripture, Jesus tied together this idea of loving him and obeying him. In John 14:15, he taught his disciples by saying, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments."

Third, Christian Compassion does merely see a need; it intentionally and intuitively acts and serves others in the name of Jesus. The Samaritan man recognized the fallen man’s many needs in the present and long-term. He personally cared for the man in need and made arrangements for his continual care at a high cost to himself. As believers, we must not only see the needs of others but apply wisdom in the way we personally care for the present and long-term needs of those who come into our circle of influence. The worst thing we can do is see a need, speak to it, and turn away from it in the name of religion. Pastor James addresses this issue in James 2:14-17. He writes, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." The conclusion is that our faith must be expressed in both love and action.

Fourth, Christian Compassion is an eternal investment in the Kingdom of God. It is important to remember that God sees all activity under heaven, and we will have to give an account as to how we stewarded what God has given us for his glory and the good of his people. Roman 14:12 says, "So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” We must acknowledge that when we serve others in need in the name of Jesus, we are serving God, and there will be a reward someday in heaven for this compassionate response. In Matt. 25:31-40, Jesus distinguishes the faithful sheep and unfaithful goats of his fold. He, the reigning King of Glory, will separate them someday for judgment and reward. Jesus said: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

The investment we make in the lives of others creates an eternal ripple effect beyond this life. We serve others in the name of Jesus for their good and to bring glory to our Father in Heaven.

The simple and regular application of biblical hospitality and compassion in the local assembly can greatly impact a post-covid world. In the next year and those to come, let us be known for our love for God and one another. Let us embrace the world as our neighbor for the sake of the forward movement of the Gospel in the local church.

[1] John A. Martin, “Luke,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 234.

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