I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.
Introduction: Living a Transparent Christian Life by Hospitality
Dr. Francis Schaeffer was an American evangelical theologian, philosopher, and Presbyterian pastor. He is best known for co-founding the L'Abri community in Switzerland with his wife Edith Schaeffer. For many years Dr. Schaeffer and Edith ran this house of Christian hospitality and study in Switzerland. They opened their hearts and homes to hundreds of people seeking Biblical answers to life’s challenges. In her book 'What is a Family?' Edith offers this counsel: “Every Christian home is meant to have a door that swings open."
Someone once said that:
"Perhaps the most effective way to demonstrate God’s values and Christ’s love to others is to invite and welcome guests into our homes."
In this sin-cursed world in which we live most are out for themselves and think little of the needs of others. It is interesting that at the center of the English word 'sin' there is the letter 'I'. Sin begins by putting self ahead of the will of the God who created you. It is a matter of pride in which you care more for yourself than about God's commands. Then that pride leads ultimately to putting your needs and desires above that of others whom God created and whom He loves.
According to Jesus, the two greatest commandments are to love God and love others (Mark 12:28-31). To love everyone equally is a true sign of our love for God and our desire to live Christ-like. Hospitality is defined as entertaining and welcoming in guests or visitors. It is a genuine way to show love for others!
Christian writer and speaker Rosaria Butterfield has this to say about the subject:
"Christian hospitality is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the church today. So what is hospitality? Hospitality simply is this: it is meeting the stranger and embracing that stranger as a neighbor, and meeting a neighbor, and by God’s power, embracing that neighbor as someone who will be part of the family of God."
She goes on to say that:
"Hospitality is not entertainment. It is not meant to show off what you know how to do well. Hospitality is living your transparent Christian life before a watching world that despises you. That kind of hospitality happens actually every day."
Today we look at the Book of 3 John, which is the shortest book in the Bible with only 200 words in the original Greek manuscript. Yet it deals with this big subject of Christian hospitality, especially as it concerns being hospitable to those who are fellow-believers that are traveling while preaching the gospel, the good news that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, rose again, ascended to heaven and is coming again.
The truth is that not many Christians are professional evangelists, nor have they been given the gift of evangelism. However, the job of getting the gospel out to a world that desperately needs to hear it belongs to all of us. And one way that we can do that is through the means of hospitality to those who are carrying out the task of spreading it abroad.
Let us look a little more closely at this small book of 3 John and see what we can learn from it today.
I. Author and Occasion of the Epistle
Let us begin by looking at the author and the occasion of this book. The epistle itself doesn't name the author. But tradition from the earliest times of the church and all the evidence points to the writer as being the apostle John, the beloved disciple, who also wrote the Gospel of John. He calls himself 'the elder.'
A lot had changed in the 60 years or so that John had been following Jesus. John and his brother James were called by the Lord while they were working for their father Zebedee on a fishing boat. Now James is dead because he had become the first apostle of Christ to die for his faith. But John lived on to become the last apostle still alive after all the others had been killed as martyrs.
The precise date of the epistle cannot be determined but 3 John would most likely have been written at about the same time as John’s other letters of 1 and 2 John, between A.D. 85-95. During this time he is ministering in Ephesus and is in the latter part of his life.
The epistle came about as a result of a report of some difficulties that John had received caused by a man named Diotrephes. So John wrote a letter to another man named Gaius who was a leader of one or more of the churches in Asia Minor to tell him how to deal with the problems.
Just what was going on that made John write? Here is a synopsis by pastor Chuck Swindoll. He says this:
"Troubles had come to the church in Asia. Diotrephes had taken control of one of the churches there and used his power to ban certain travelling missionaries from coming to the church at all. At one point, the church had seen something of a leadership quality in him and had placed him in charge, but now in the top spot, the power had gone to his head. He refused to welcome those traveling ministers of the gospel to preach and take rest with his church. And even worse, upon receiving an earlier correction from John, Diotrephes refused to listen (3 John 1:9)."
So John sent a letter to Gaius in order to let him know that what Diotrephes was doing was wrong and wasn't walking consistently with the truth of the gospel. He wasn't acting in love and wasn't demonstrating the fellowship of the Christian church, of which all believers are a part.
And John also used this letter to commend those who gave hospitality to the traveling missionaries, encouraging them to continue to do so.
Another and final person who is personally talked about in this short epistle is Demetrius. He is one of those faithful believers that John is commending. He is also, more than likely, the man who delivered the epistle from John to Gaius. Here is what John says about him in verses 11 and 12:
"Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true."
II. Outline of the Book
That's the synopsis of 3 John. Here now is a quick outline of this epistle:
I. Salutation (1-2)
II. Commendation of Gaius (3-8)
1. Gaius' Faithfulness (3-4)
2. Gaius' Hospitality (5-8)
III. Condemnation of Diotrephes (9-10)
IV. Recommendation of Demetrius (11-12)
V. Final Greetings (13-15)
We see in the final greetings that John is expressing the inadequacy of a letter and apologizing for the brevity of it. Also, he says that he hopes to visit them shortly when he can see them face to face (13-14).
Finally, in the last verse, he gives this ending Salute to them. He tells them:
"Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends by name." (15).
Now that we have some idea of what is in the book, lets see what truths it can teach us today.
III. Belief in the Gospel is Seen in Hospitality Toward Others
One of the first truths that we learn is that, though salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, true faith is seen or demonstrated in actions of love toward others. Especially through how one treats strangers whose goal is to preach the good news of Christ. True faith produces the fruit of loving actions toward other people.
And Gaius is a good example of one who walks in the truth of the gospel. After John greets him and wishes that he prosper and be in good health just as his soul prospers (1-2), he goes on to commend him for the way he demonstrates that truth. John says:
"For I was glad when brethren came and testified to your truth, that is, how you are walking in truth. I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in truth. Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers; and they have testified to your love before the church. For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth." (3-8).
As we talk about how Christians ought to be hospitable, we have to remember the book of 2 John that had the problem of false prophets who were coming into the church. In doing hospitality we have to be discerning because we mustn't entertain those whose desire is to destroy the church and it's fellowship by what they teach.
2 John specifically tells the believers about these deceivers and what to do with them. He says in 2 John 7-11 that there are many anti-Christs gone out into the world who don't acknowledge Jesus as coming in the flesh. They are not to be received or given a greeting because you will participate in their evil deeds.
So the demonstration of love and hospitality isn't to be given at the expense of the truth of the gospel.
John, in his epistle of 3 John, gives grounds for practicing hospitality in a manner worthy of God (6). The ministers whom you show hospitality to have to have pure motives. These missionaries went out for the sake of the 'Name', meaning the name of Jesus Christ (7). They were doing ministry for God's glory and not their own.
The second quality in a minister worthy of our hospitality is that they aren't doing it merely for money. Notice in verse 7 that they took nothing from the Gentiles. The church was their only means of support.
The final quality that one looks for in showing a minister hospitality is the fact that they are doing legitimate ministry for the Lord that is worthy to be participated in. In other words, they are preaching the true gospel. For if they aren't then we don't want to help them preach heresy.
We see this more clearly in 2 John where the apostle is discussing men who were doing just that. That is, they were preaching heresy. But the men in 3 John, on the other hand, were doing exactly what they were supposed to do and were genuine ministers. John tells Gaius in his letter to him:
"Therefore, we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth." (8).
IV. True Christian Hospitality Is Not Selfish
The next truth that we can see is that genuine Christian hospitality is not selfish. The perfect example of what not to do is seen in the life of Diatrephes. John has this to say about him:
"I wrote something to the church; but Diatrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church."
Diatrephes was clearly in it for himself and not for the sake of the gospel and the glory of God. And he didn't care about being hospitable to anyone, much less those who were serving the Lord for the sake of the truth of Christ.
Only God knew his heart and whether or not he was truly saved. However, he was not demonstrating any of the fruit of the Spirit in this particular case. A true Christian must never imitate Diatrephes or anyone like him. They are to act like Paul tells us in Philippians 2:3. He says:
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves."
They are to be more like Gaius, and also like Demetrius whom we learned about in verses 11, 12. We read about him earlier but now we have to emphasize him the way the apostle John does. He has developed a reputation for hospitality.
V. True Christian Hospitality Can Be Observed by All
The final truth that we learn is that genuine Christian hospitality can be observed by all. It can be seen by the world who wonders why we do it. This can lead to giving them the gospel. And hospitality can be observed by other Christians as well who can look at us and decide to imitate what they have seen in us.
In verse 11, John tells Gaius not to imitate what is evil but that which is good. Further, the one who does good is of God. And the one who doesn't hasn't seen Him.
Then in verse 12 John gives Demetrius as a clear example of the kind of person whom we want to imitate. The verse tells us:
"Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself; and we add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true."
It is evident that Demetrius had a reputation for hospitality that was well known throughout the region. His reputation from the 'truth itself' is probably an indication that he was an excellent role model because he practiced the truth of God's Word in his life consistently. That lead to John being able to testify to his character as well.
Once again, all of us should be more like Demetrius and have a good reputation in our communities, with non-believers and believers alike. We should have that good reputation with everyone and with the truth itself, walking consistently the way that we say that we believe.
In conclusion, every time I think about the term hospitality I think about the T.V. show of many years ago called Cheers. The show was about a local bar and the characters that would frequent it. The theme song to that hit T.V. series is what hospitality is all about. It was written by Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo. Here is part of it:
Makin' your way in the world today takes everything you've got. Takin' a break from all your worries sure would help a lot. Wouldn’t you like to get away?
All those nights when you've got no lights,
The check is in the mail;
And your little angel
Hung the cat up by it's tail;
And your third fiance' didn't show;
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You want to be where everybody knows your name.
If the church of Jesus Christ showed more compassion and more hospitality to those all around them, then there would be less and less people attending their local bars to find some place where everybody knows your name. And there'd be more and more people seeking the ministry of their local church.
The bottom line is that the world in which we live can be a cold and lonely place where most people are leading lives that revolve around themselves and revolve around their goals and problems. And there are many people that are lonely and in need of someone to care for them and listen to their problems. We can be that listener. And though we may not be able to solve their problems ourselves, we can lead them to someone who can. The Lord Jesus Christ.
And to get closer to the theme of 3 John, if the local church would take more responsibility for those who spend their lives traveling around and preaching the good news of Jesus Christ to a lost world, by showing those evangelists genuine Christian hospitality, then we would make it possible for more and more people to come under the sound of the gospel. And we would widen our outreach to places that we cannot go to personally ourselves, but they can. And we'd share in their ministry of reconciliation.
We mustn't take hospitality for granted. It is a vital part of what it means to live a consistent Christian witness before the watching world. May God use us, for His glory, to show His love to all that He places within our path.
© 2021 Jeff Shirley