When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters received us warmly.
One writer described the gift of hospitality this way: “Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. . . . It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.”
As Paul began his journey to Jerusalem, he was repeatedly offered acts of hospitality by the body of Christ. In Tyre, he found disciples who welcomed him for seven days. In Ptolemais he stayed another day with Christians. In Caesarea, Paul and company lodged with Philip and his four daughters. And later, he stayed with Mnason, a man known to the Christians in Caesarea. In some of these places, Paul did not know his hosts before he arrived; yet the body of Christ extended hospitality to Paul as to a member of their own household.
Notice as well their deep concern for Paul. In Tyre, they urged Paul not to go to Jerusalem, and in Caesarea the prophetic message of Agabus caused the Christians to plead with Paul not to go. Despite these concerns, Paul was prepared to suffer for Christ; their hospitality allowed Paul the freedom to go where he felt called.
When Paul arrived in Jerusalem, he was met again with hospitality, but there were concerns about Paul’s stance toward the Law. Notice, however, the efforts toward respect on both sides. The Jerusalem believers welcomed Paul and praised God for his missionary work. In turn, Paul agreed to join in Jewish purification rites so as not to undermine Jewish cultural practices. While affirming the underlying gospel of Christ, each side extended gracious hospitality to the other. Their differences did not create enemies, but mutual respect in the body of Christ.
Apply the Word
Scripture models for us a hospitality that also allows for differences. As you worship this Sunday, what acts of hospitality might you extend, even to those with whom you disagree? Decide now to offer a warm hug, a smile, an encouraging compliment, or even an invitation to a meal to someone with whom you might not normally see eye to eye.