By Jason Hsieh at the Grace and Truth Blog
As biblical counselors, we’re always looking to suggest practical ways of living out what we believe. How often do we hear from friends and counselees (herein just “friends”) that they know what the Bible says, but are unsure what to do or how to connect doctrine with their struggles? In response, we typically remind them to remember God’s purposes for trials, to trust, to pray, and to fill themselves with God’s Word. All of which should be done. But most of us forget about Peter’s prescription of hospitality to a suffering people (1 Peter 4:9) as a way to demonstrate faith even in the midst of persecution and hardship.
Hospitality offers a vital prescription for growth, because it touches so many aspects of how we live our lives. According to the New Testament we need to consider the needs of others, to share the gospel, to love, and to be intentional with our resources; hospitality provides a tangible way to practice all of that. This post aims to encourage counselors to understand hospitality biblically and to prescribe it as one way to help friends grow in Christ-likeness and connect belief with action.
What Biblical Hospitality Entails
When prescribing hospitality to friends, a natural question will arise: what is biblical hospitality? Scripture shows that biblical hospitality consists of:
- Love for strangers and not just friends
- An offer of care for those who cannot repay you in any fashion
- Assistance to those who are truly gospel workers while closing doors to false teachers
In others words, hospitality need not be elaborate, nor even financially costly. It doesn’t even have to revolve around a meal. But it does require discernment and a willingness to forego your comfort, your convenience, and possibly even your safety and reputation. For example: Jesus tells the Pharisees to host the socially outcast, not the popular people; Onesiphorus traveled far to tend to an imprisoned Paul; and David cared for a crippled man related to Saul, the very man who tried to kill him.
Who needs to practice hospitality? Everyone does, but consider the impact practicing hospitality would have on these individuals:
- Drug addicts seeking a euphoric experience – serving others enables them to become more Christ-like – the very type of “transcendent” experience they are seeking
- Control freaks – anything can and does happen in hospitality, and control freaks can learn how to be okay when things do not go perfectly since the focus is not on them, but in serving others
- Slothful people – hospitality trains and requires them to be intentional with their thought, time, and resources
- People who want to matter – they are reminded that nothing could be more significant than telling someone the gospel or helping those who do share the gospel
However, just like with evangelism, many excuses exist for not being hospitable, including a perceived lack of gifting or thinking others will do it. At its core though, a lack of hospitality may demonstrate a lack of understanding about the gospel of grace and a lack of love for others, so you would serve others well to help them break through such excuses. As always, bring them back to the core elements of the gospel and its implications.
Next, you might need to help your friend think through how to go about this. Review what biblical hospitality entails and then walk through a specific hospitality opportunity. Remember, hospitality does not need to be and should not be limited to just a meal; consider some other ways that you can help someone spiritually, practically, and physically. Below are a few questions you could use to spark your thoughts.
1. Who is in need in my relationships?
- Who is new to church?
- Which of my friends or family members have not heard the gospel?
- Who has been in the church for some time, but has had friends move on?
- Who is on the fringes of the church?
2. How can I love those in need?
- What kind of questions and conversations will be most edifying?
- What specifically are people in need of and when are they in need of it?
- What would help my guest(s) feel welcome and well served?
- What would be appropriate and fruitful for engaging non-Christian friends and family?
3. What kind of hospitality can I do as often as possible?
- What in my schedule could shift or change to allow for more hospitality, and what cannot?
- Who can I partner with?
- For what reason has God given me time and possessions?
- How can my family participate in practicing hospitality?
- What will be realistic given my budget?
Your friend may also need you to pray, offer further encouragement, and address some fears or doubts. Just because something is biblical or commanded does not make it easy to do!
Lastly, follow-up with your friends. Talk about how the hospitality opportunity went and what impact it had on them as they served others with their time and resources. Continue to encourage hospitality and troubleshoot any challenges they may have. You can do so by reminding your friends why hospitality is so important, helping them find others to partner with, discussing the results of selflessness versus selfishness, and encouraging them to pray as they prepare and practice the glorious task of loving strangers for Christ’s sake.
. By using the word “prescribe,” I do not mean to dull the command of hospitality to something that is optional, but rather aim to encourage counselors to suggest in gracious and gentle ways to their friends to practice hospitality. Any “softness” in using the term “prescribe” and its variances should therefore be inferred to using it in counseling someone rather than how it is portrayed in Scripture.
. Romans 12:13, Hebrews 13:2, and 1 Timothy 3:2
. Luke 14:1-14, Exodus 22:21; Deuteronomy 14:28-29; 2 Samuel 9: 7-13
. Romans 16:1-2 and 3 John: 7-8
. 2 John 10-11
 Acts 17:5-9
 Luke 14:1-14
 2 Timothy 1:16-18
 2 Samuel 9:7-13
Permissions: You are welcome to freely share this material, provided that you include the following statement: “This article (Prescribing Hospitality for Growth in the Christian Life by Jason Hsieh) originally appeared on the Biblical Counseling Coalition website and is used with permission.”