Open Your Bible
Romans 15:1-13, 1 Corinthians 11:27-34, 1 Peter 4:7-11, Proverbs 21:10
Before my husband and I embarked on leading our first small group, we consistently prayed that our group would have a mutual affection for one another. We wanted everyone to care for each person despite our many differences and preferences for how community should be. Why did we focus on this so much? Because we knew “the welcome” was just as important as the Bible verse we studied when it came to sharing life with the family of God.
Just like our biological family, the family of God is often made up of people who may not be easy to love and serve. There are always people who will rub you the wrong way or see the world differently than you do. So, we decided to combat these disparities with biblical hospitality.
We sat our group down and asked them to take ownership of “welcom[ing] one another, just as Christ also welcomed you” (Romans 15:7). When a new face walked into our small group, someone would take them under their wing and bring them into the conversation. If someone needed prayer, many would offer to sit with them after formal discussion to pray. When someone was confused about Scripture, others gently helped them interpret the passage. The welcome each person received was a “consideration for his neighbor” (Proverbs 21:10), as each of us learned to build each other up.
Some may read this and think it’s an ideal, unattainable vision of sharing life together, but that’s the beauty of God’s people being together. It was God’s power working through our hospitality to not only encourage those of us in the group but to be a light to all those who came and went over the years (Matthew 5:14). Things were not always perfect, but our consistent love for one another covered “a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). After five years, it became clear that the family of God was experienced best when we all used our gifts to serve one another.
Yet often, we assume the family of God is about us. We struggle to love the person in the group whose comments annoy us. We get frustrated when a sister or brother in Christ falls back into sin after discipling them for months. We grow resistant to change when others decide to bring new people into the community. This is why the family of God is dependent on Jesus’s hospitality and not our own. Jesus did not come to serve and rescue those who were like Him. If so, none of us would have found belonging in the family of God. But Jesus came to rescue everyone, which allows us to fully extend ourselves in service to anyone.
Our hospitality—our heart welcome—differentiates us from the welcome of the world; for we find life in giving it away and laying it down for the good of others.