What Makes for Christian Hospitality?
Two men, one a Jew, (Peter) the other a powerful Roman Gentile soldier (Cornelius) and occupier of Jewish land!
If these two can learn hospitality toward one another, anyone can!
Cornelius, a gentile and a seeker of God living by his “best lights” lives on the balmy coast in Caesarea. He has a spiritual vision that he immediately acts on by sending one of his soldiers and two slaves to Joppa in search of Peter.
Meanwhile Peter is enjoying the hospitality of his friend Simon the tanner in a town called Joppa where he is reflecting on the amazing things God has been doing in and through him and the disciples since Jesus was resurrected. He too is given a spiritual vision in a dream that he argues with at first—and refuses “the hospitality” of God because he thought it would compromise everything he’d ever known about his Jewish identity.
But after the vision Peter is ready to offer the Gentile men who came looking for him sent by Cornelius, hospitality at his friend the tanner’s house. Peter can see by now that it’s “okay” to have contact with non Jews. But this is only the beginning.
Peter agreed to go with them to see Cornelius where they were invited into his home. Cornelius is a prepared soul. They are everywhere. Their gut tells them this is no accident that there is a Creator, they feel drawn to God, wanting to know the reality of who God is. Cornelius the Roman officer falls at Peter’s feet to worship Peter!
Not all worship is good. Worship needs to be informed by the truth. Cornelius was ready to learn. So are very many others.
Peter is also ready, readied. In that setting Peter connects the dots between his vision and the invitation to visit Cornelius. Therefore he says:
“I can see God shows no partiality…” Read as in race, religion, geography, ethnicity, gender.” = I can see anyone whose heart is toward God is welcome. Peter is seeing that Jesus is Lord of all.
Up to this point Peter understood others would join the movement, but he assumed they would do so by taking upon themselves Jewish identity, and renounce their own ethnic past, and embrace Judaism.
This sometimes gets misunderstood in the other direction too. That it doesn’t matter what a person believes, that all distinctions are set aside. Now it’s “all good.” That all religions are pretty much the same. They all lead to God. Not so. Otherwise, why bother sending Peter to come and tell Cornelius about Jesus? Why not just stay where he was? “The reason Cornelius was a devout worshiper of Israel’s God was because he was fed up the normal Roman gods and eager to follow the real One.” (N.T. Wright, Acts)
God invites us as we are, wherever we are, but responding to His hospitality we open ourselves to a complete transformation expressed in repentance, forgiveness, baptism and receiving the Spirit.
Peter tells Cornelius the truth about God:
1. God sent the message of peace through Jesus
2. God anointed Jesus with the Spirit & power (He is the Messiah)
3. God was with Him
4. God raised Him from the dead
5. God chose us as witnesses
6. God told us to preach and spread the word
7. God ordained Jesus as judge of the living and the dead, meaning in Jesus God is setting things right. In Him heaven and earth will come together and be made new
The Holy Spirit descended upon Cornelius’ house. Jesus loves to come to our houses. He cannot know how He will show up at our table-but we are called to offer hospitality to share our joy, hope and witness.
This is Christian hospitality. We welcome others and we welcome Him.