Think of a testimony youâ€™ve heard where someone comes to faith in Christ later in life. Perhaps your own, or a friend, relative, or acquaintanceâ€™s. The crucial component of that testimony is the content: the Gospel was proclaimed, and by grace the unbeliever responded in faith. But we shouldnâ€™t neglect the scenery.
What I mean is that hospitality is like the set piece for the drama of evangelism and conversion. We are commanded to preach the glad tidings that Christ was crucified for our sins and raised from the dead by Godâ€™s power so that we might have eternal life. This is â€œof first importance (1 Cor. 15:3).â€Â
But underscore this with the New Testamentâ€™s hospitality imperative: â€œbe given to hospitality (Rom. 12:13)â€, an elder is to set an example for the saints by being â€œa lover of hospitality (Tit. 1:8, cf. 1 Tim. 3:2)â€, Peter tells us â€œUse hospitality one to another without grudging (1Pe 4:9),â€ in Hebrews weâ€™re told, â€œBe not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares (Heb. 13:2).â€
Now back to the conversion story. Where did it take place? In most instances, it happens in the context of some form of hospitality. Because evangelism thrives in the soil of hospitality. An invitation to a home-cooked meal. A conversation over a beverage they didnâ€™t pay for. A hitchhiker given a ride in a Christianâ€™s car. A â€œwelcome-to-the-neighborhoodâ€ basket. A place to stay for the night (or longer).
Thanksgivingâ€“â€“while not a traditional part of the Christian calendarâ€“â€“is a good excuse to be Christians when it comes to the calendar. Spread your table full of food, surround it with family, and donâ€™t forget that hospitality is the corkscrew which opens the wine of evangelism. While the Gospel is the melody of the song of evangelism, it is hospitality that is the key signature.
So this Thanksgiving look for ways to include those who are oft overlooked, and especially for those who do not know Christ. It may well be that the Christian joy and fellowship and gratitude will provide the backdrop to hearing and heeding the clarion call of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus.
So practice hospitality.