Summer of Hospitality #4 - Fervent Love and Hospitality

1 Peter 4:7-9

“The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint.”

Some people work best under the pressure of a deadline. I'm one of them. There's a special urgency when you know you only have a limited time to produce. It seems to sharpen the focus of my mind and help my concentration level. I'm definitely more committed to the task at hand. How would our perspective change if God told us that 2006 was going to be it for us? Time is precious and our perspective towards time helps to determine our priorities. In this passage, Peter is addressing the issue that “the end of all things is near.” And because of this, there is a sense of urgency concerning our time and what we should do with it. There are certain priorities that we should be focusing on. It’s interesting that among those things that are of utmost importance is being fervent in our love for one another and the practice of hospitality.

The words “above all” in verse 7 remind us of the priority of loving others in the Christians life. Other than loving God nothing else should take priority over it. Note that Peter does not simply say that we are to love one another, but that we are to love one another “deeply.” The Greek word translated as “deeply” (ektene) literally means “strained.” The idea is not that your love is strained and about to break, but that you are straining to love others as much as you possibly can. To describe this love the English Standard Version used the word “earnestly,” while the New American Standard uses the word “fervent.” The Message says, “Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it.”

You might be tempted to ask how can God command me to love someone else this way? How can I control how I feel about another person? Our culture has developed this mistaken idea that love is a feeling. But the Bible reveals that love is not primarily a feeling or an emotion. Rather love is a decision of the will. Love is a choice and that choice results in loving behavior. So God is not commanding us to feel a certain way about others, but to behave in a loving way toward others. And that is something that we can all do if we decide to.

Loving each other is the second greatest commandment of all. Even of all the virtues, such as faith and hope, the greatest is still love. 1 John 3:11 says, "This is the message you heard from the beginning: we should love one another." This is the type of love that Peter says, will cover over a "multitude of sins." This love also says, "Because Jesus forgave a sinner like me, then I should forgive in the same manner." Where this love is allowed to abound, it will always work as a shock absorber, cushioning and smoothing out the bumps and cooling off offenses and irritations caused by fellow believers. Love makes us blind to other’s faults in order to love them unconditionally. Our love will reflect Christ’s unconditional love towards us and free us to love each other deeply with an unfailing love.

After exhorting us to fervently love one another, Peter tells us to “be hospitable to one another without complaint.” Why? Because hospitality is love in action! This command requires us to go beyond being "nice" and accommodating to others. In fact, this has nothing to do with social entertaining. In social entertaining, the focus is on the host of the party. But when one is hospitable the focus is on the guest being welcomed into the home. This is what makes hospitality such a strong expression of love for each other. The primary reason is not to entertain the guests, but to meet their needs. It is providing the guest a place to stay, food to eat, a listening ear for conversation, a heart to express love and acceptance.

Hospitality is a means to draw us together! That’s why Peter says to be hospitable without complaint! It is obvious that being hospitable is hard work! To do it without complaining means to be the kind of people who do it and like to do it! In other words, the command to be hospitable is not just a command to do something. It is not just a command that can be legalistically fulfilled with a quota of guests. It is a command to be a certain kind of person, namely, the kind that doesn't resent having to be hospitable, the kind of person who doesn't look at the extra dishes and bedding and bother -- and grumble. Rather, let your hospitality be an extension or an overflow of God's hospitality to you. The ultimate act of hospitality was when Jesus Christ died for sinners to make everyone who believes a member of the household of God. We are no longer strangers and sojourners. We have come home to God. Everybody who trusts in Jesus finds a home in God. Be a good steward of God's grace as you love others and demonstrate that love through gracious hospitality.