This is a very brief book, much more a launching pad than a discussion. Strauch proves from Scripture that hospitality — opening up one’s house primarily to brothers and sisters in Christ, but also to the needy and one’s neighbors — is an essential to the Christian life and community. It is not a nice thing for some people, but it is a requirement for everyone.
The most interesting point he made, in my mind, was that each of the commands to pursue hospitality in the New Testament directly follow commands to love the saints. That is, hospitality is the way we are to love one another. We aren’t simply to feel a certain way toward fellow believers, we are to put it into practice and we are to make one another a part of our lives.
The back of the book lists discussion questions to explore the topic further in a group study setting. With only 5 short chapters and many potential avenues for discussion (rather than just “comprehension questions”), this would make a great small group study.
Wilkins divides this book into two parts: Part one is about the necessity of friendship, and part two is about the necessity of hospitality.
On friendship, Wilkins maintains that having one or two close friends is vital, not optional, not simply a nice thing if it works out. We are created finite, dependent, and social. Friendship is something to pray about, seek out, and invest in, not only for our children, but for ourselves as well. Friendships do not happen incidentally, they require an investment of time and of oneself — and it is worth it. Wilkins also develops that while we are to be friendly with everyone (loving our neighbor), we cannot be intimate friends with more than one or two people because of the time and investment involved. And, from a pastor’s vantage, he also gives a hard word about being friendly oneself rather than complaining about cliques and the unfriendliness of others.
On hospitality, Wilkins fleshes out Strauch’s Hospitality Commands a bit more, particularly the aspect that hospitality is always connected with showing love to the saints in the New Testament. He develops a bit more what hospitality is, what the benefits are, and finishes up with a chapter of practical tips for beginning to show hospitality.
“The focus of hospitality is neither on the full table or the large room but on the open door. […] The heart of hospitality is the encouragement of others.”
“I hope that all Christians can delight in the amazing beauty of the lawful variations that exist between us.”
“Joyful Christians laugh at the suggestion that the unbeliever’s licentiousness yields in any way a true and lasting happiness; but sadly many Christians fail to give, in their home life, a living refutation of the unbeliever. Our lives have failed to publish the joy of the gospel. Our houses should be a place of celebration.”
“So many dead churches believe themselves to be unified and full of love for the brethren, but that is only because they never see each other. It is easy to ‘love,’ in a vague, abstract way, someone you do not know. It is easy to be at peace with humanity in general, as long as you never have to reconcile with a real person. There is peace and unity in a graveyard; there are no arguments and no divisions. But that is not the peace of the living; it is the emptiness of the dead. In a real, living church, growing under the blessing of God, members are rubbing shoulders constantly, and so there are constant outbreaks of conflict that require forgiveness, forbearance, and patience — growth in sanctification becomes a necessity; it is sink or swim.”