“ Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” 1 Peter 4:9
When I was about 6 or 7 years old, my mom and I attended what was, for me, a quite memorable mother and daughter banquet at our church. My mother had used the occasion to take me shopping for a new Kate Greenaway dress, which I wore, complete with a crinoline petticoat and black patent leather Mary Janes. Pin curled and sporting a matching patent leather purse, I proudly sat at the lovely table along with the “other” church ladies, admiring the bouquets of lilacs, chatting with my mom, and enjoying myself immensely.
Customarily, the men of the church prepared and served the meal and this night our table’s server was Mr. Hagaman, one of the older men I always enjoyed talking with on Sundays. He had a smile for everyone and a soft and gentle manner. He asked me what I would like to drink and when I said, “Milk, please,” he reached out to lift my glass, but in the process, spilled nearly the entire pitcher of milk onto my lap. I didn’t cry but I wanted to. My mom quickly took me to the bathroom and did her best to clean me up, but I was a sticky, crinoline and patent leather mess for the rest of the night. Mr. Hagaman wiped up the table and floor and spent most of the evening apologizing profusely.
The next morning I woke up to find a gift wrapped box of chocolates on the front door step along with a sweet letter from Mr. Hagaman, once again telling me how sorry he had been for ruining my evening. I was amazed at the thoughtfulness of this dear man, my brother in Christ and, perhaps, that was when I first realized that chocolate makes everything better! In this one simple act of kindness toward a child, Mr. Hagaman demonstrated to me that I was a valuable person, someone worthy of his hospitality.
In Romans 12:1-2, Paul admonishes us that now that we are believers, we are to become like Jesus. He says “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. “ He then continues through the chapter, listing some things that reflect what it means to be in God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will, with verse 13 saying “Practice hospitality.” You see, showing hospitality to our children is not just a nice idea, it is a requirement if we are to live in God’s will; it is an act of worship to God.
Jesus warned his disciples repeatedly of this truth. Several times in the Gospels, it is recorded that the disciples argued over who was greatest in the kingdom, even asking Jesus who was greatest, hoping, I am sure, that he would list their names. Imagine the surprise they experienced when He told them that the one who serves is the greatest and then called a little child and told them that unless they became like little children they would never enter heaven! He then goes on to tell them that not only are they welcoming Jesus when they welcome children, but if they harm any child they are in danger of punishment that would be worse than having a millstone tied around their necks and being cast into the sea!
You see, Jesus set the tone for all of us regarding the importance of children in His kingdom, in His order of life. They are not to be the ones set aside and out of the way in our churches, placed somewhere so they don’t disturb the “real worshippers.” Children are not the ones who should be taught to always go to the end of the line or to sit at the “children’s tables.” Children are not the ones to be treated with disrespect and told ”children are to be seen and not heard.” They are not to be trained as dogs or frightened into compliance with “disciplinary” weaponry. Instead, He said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them.” And then he took them in His arms, put his hands on them, and blessed them.”
How do we demonstrate hospitality? We prepare for our guests, we anticipate their arrival, we provide our best food, a clean house, a comfortable bed at night, we use our best sheets and towels, the ones that match. We prepare food they will like and if we know they don’t care for certain foods, we don’t say “You will finish this or you will be eating it cold for breakfast.” We don’t think “We will wait until they go to bed and then bring out the best dessert.” A child will know he is welcomed in your home when he receives the royal treatment usually reserved for guests!
Author, Anne Ortlund, in her book Children are Wet Cement, tells of her vivid memory of going out for lunch with her family every Sunday after morning worship and how her father always allowed the children to choose from the adult side of the menu rather than from the children’s selections. She said that that simple act made her feel valued as a fellow believer in Christ and opened her heart to receive spiritual truth from her parents. The “pattern of this world,” as Romans talks about, is to not value children as the precious image bearers of Christ that they are, but rather to see them as little extensions of ourselves or as projects that are to be made in our own image.
Psalm 8:2 joyfully tells us “from the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.” Let us purpose to do all that we can to enable our children to praise God by showing them hospitality today!
Next we will look at the command to esteem our children better than ourselves.