9Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." 20No, "if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads." 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Food and hospitality go hand-in-hand. More often than not, we show hospitality through the sharing of food. When guests come to our house, one of the first things we do is offer them something to eat and drink. It’s a sign of hospitality. When we check into a hotel, oftentimes there are complimentary coffee and freshly-baked cookies. It’s a sign of hospitality. Important meetings often take place over a shared lunch. It’s a sign of hospitality.
Today’s reading from Romans comes as Paul’s “therefore” to the Roman Christians. Because of the gospel promise that we have been saved by grace through faith in Christ, therefore we are now free to treat one another in the way Paul outlines in this list of instructions. One of these instructions Paul gives is “extend hospitality to strangers” (12:13). Later, Paul instructs that if one of our enemies is hungry, we are feed them; if they are thirsty, we are to give them something to drink (12:20). Christian hospitality and sharing food and drink have gone hand-in-hand from the very beginning.
In the congregation I serve, like most congregations, we eat all the time. Nearly every time we gather, whether it’s for worship, for a meeting, or just for fun, there is food and drink. Sometimes I wonder if it’s too much, but then I am reminded that sharing Christian hospitality with one another is all about our eating and drinking together. And yet, the food and drink we share together is not primarily for those of us who are already there. As followers of Jesus, the food and drink we share together—in our fellowship hours, at our funeral luncheons, at our Christmas parties, even at the Lord’s table—is not primarily for us, but for the strangers in our midst, both those who are already with us and those who are yet to come. Only when our tables are set fully and freely for others is true Christian hospitality present. So bring on the cookies and punch . . . the gospel is just too good to keep to ourselves!
Lord Jesus, make all our tables gifts of hospitality to the strangers in our church and in our community. Amen.
Written by Pastor Greg Busboom