He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God. (Acts 16:34)
The people in many congregations are doing some amazing things. It is especially true here where we host and serve at Soup Kettle, we are a mainstay at Food for Greater Elgin, and we mentor in the schools. We are now looking at hosting a summer lunch program, starting an after school program and overhauling our Sunday School to use a new model called “Godly Play.”
In addition, we are growing in worship attendance. We are reaching people and some of them are seeing this as a place to call their spiritual home for this part of their faith journey. This week, as we worship, we will have a baptism and welcome five new adults through Affirmation of Faith. Overall, things are going well.
But the lesson this week raises a point that would still stretch us and can stretch us to do not more work, but actually make some shifts to also do better work.
Paul and Silas had been in prison for the missionary work they were doing. An earthquake has set them free and the jailer, essentially the night watchman who lives adjacent to the prison, encounters these prisoners in a new way and decides to join them. He is baptized and so is his family.
After the family is baptized, the story takes a twist. While in our ministry we often have a reception and provide a cake or snacks to welcome ne members, in this case the jailer and his family provide the food and Paul and Silas are their guests. This practice of “reverse hospitality” is a standard practice in the book of Acts. A missionary person shares the gospel, new people are baptized and welcomed into the faith, and the new people provide the food and hospitality.
Why is this? Because it is always easier to eat your own food than that of a stranger. It is always safer to serve the meal since you know what is in it. But a sign of true acceptance and trust, is to eat the food of someone else, especially if they are new to you and you don’t know their culture very well. It can make you wonder, “What’s in this?” Reverse hospitality was a sign that these new people were truly in. They were fully accepted and trusted as new members of the community of faith.
As we continue to connect with and reach out to new people in our community, we will continue to meet new people who are different from us in many ways. It will be tempting to “play it safe” and stay in control of things. But biblical hospitality means being willing to not just be a good host, but to also be a good guest.