In Belarus Christmas is officially celebrated twice: on December 25th and on January 7th. Having a house in a quiet place by the woods, we love to show hospitality to people: both believers and unbelievers. The holiday season provides an opportunity for them to come and stay and have some time of unhurried fellowship. For the New Year, we invited over a close friend with his wife and three children. We had another friend over who is the single mom of a five-year-old because the father is out drinking his life away. Both of these families come to our house as a vacation and for a time of rest.
Homelife is where the rubber of Christian doctrine hits the road. To me and my wife, it doesn’t feel like we are “doing ministry” in this. We use what the Lord gave us – our marriage, our house, our three kids, our two cats, and one dog – to reflect at least some of the glories of our Lord. In being hospitable, my wife makes sure that our meals are made and that they are made well. As a pastor and teacher, I am aware that teaching the Word is ministry par excellence. It’s essential. It’s the means that the Lord uses to bring people from darkness to light, from death to life. In Jesus’ account of future judgment in Matthew 25, we do not read of something like, “You didn’t preach to me!”. We do, however, read His accusations to those who are condemned like, “You didn’t feed me”. Feeding is not only something that helps ministry, feeding is ministry.
“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink'”Matthew 25:41-42 NASB
Just like any other ministry, hospitality has to be done well by those who are called to it. On many occasions, I found myself asking my wife wondering why she was staying up late to make that cake: “Relax, we can just buy something at the store and save your time! Go to sleep! Many friends are coming tomorrow. Why all that fuss about dinner? Just throw in some frozen food into the microwave.” But she always reminds me that it is not about food, it is about fellowship, is it not? It’s about people. It’s about the value we attach to these people. It’s about how much of our precious time we can give away to serve them. My wife kept her face like flint. She would not compromise. A meal has to be well-made. She must fulfill her God-given mandate.
On many other occasions, my wife found herself in a similar conversation with me asking why I was staying up late to finish that sermon: “Relax, you will do fine. It doesn’t have to be a piece of art, for crying out loud! Why all that fuss about a sermon?” Of course, in her heart, she knew it’s not about this sermon. It’s about people. It’s about the value I attach to people who will “eat” what I prepared. It’s about the value that the Lord attached to His people by shedding his precious blood for them. So I kept my face like flint. I would not compromise. A meal has to be well-made. I must fulfill my God-given mandate.