My family’s roots are Southern, an area noted for its warm hospitality. Of course, we moved to Florida where being hospitable changed from having people over for dinner to going fishing and meeting at the beach. Later, hospitality was defined by being open to new relationships because people move in and out of South Florida all the time. Now hospitality has taken another step…our American culture urges us to be inclusive and accepting of all people regardless of their lifestyle choices or politics. Believe it or not, the Apostle John had something to say about both hospitality and inclusiveness.
In 2 John, John asked a Christian widow to stop being so hospitable and inclusive and to be careful how she defined “love.”
If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds (2 John 1:10-11).
She was probably seeking to obey the “given to hospitality” exhortation all of us have heard over the years (Romans 12:13) and “Let love be genuine” (12:9a). And now she is called out for it!
It is interesting that John did this in light of his letter to a wealthy man whom he commends for his hospitality and love.
Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth (3 John 1:9-10).
Hmm…What’s the difference here? How does it affect how we work out the dynamics of hospitality and inclusiveness?
To the man, John says,“For they have gone out for the sake of the name…” and to the lady he writes, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 John 1:7).
The issue is about what these guests believed about Jesus. Gauis’ guests were probably traveling teachers seeking to strengthen the local churches. They believed that Jesus was the Promised One, the only begotten Son of God, or as John himself had proclaimed, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Not so the lady’s guests. She was providing means for people who did not even believe that Jesus was a real person like the rest of us. She was trying to be inclusive and to love without prejudice. Her guests were mixed up about who Jesus really was and why he had lived and died. In their view, he was not God in human flesh. And there are many implications to that change in belief. John was basically saying not to support Christian workers who aren’t biblical about who Jesus is.
So this is not about who is coming for dinner. It is about welcoming and supporting ministries that don’t believe that Jesus was a perfect man, the only seed of the Father, a part of the Trinity, conceived by a virgin, suffered under Pilate, died and was buried, rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven from which he shall come to judge the living and the dead. Those who don’t believe this about Jesus should not expect our support in their teaching ministries. They deny the teaching of John and Paul. How can we be cleansed by his blood or clothed in his righteousness or expect that his death was the final payment for all our sins if we deny who Jesus really is? Supporting them is being too inclusive.
Now this is not talking about giving you an excuse to be rude. Think Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses. Both are wrong about Jesus. If your neighbor is a Mormon, are you going to exclude her from the neighborhood cookout? But, to give her money for her teen son’s year of missionary work or door-to-door “evangelism” is quite another story. Smile, and say no.
How about you? What do you believe about the LORD Jesus Christ? Sometimes we just like to start with how we feel. It feels so good to go to a Christmas Eve candlelight service or take the children to see a live Nativity Scene. Or to sing carols or songs about Jesus as the Savior. But, what do you really believe about his birth? And what about the Judgment Day? Would you prefer to let that slide? We must start with what we believe about the person of Christ in order to enjoy spiritual blessings like grace, comfort, strength etc. Feeling good about Jesus will never give you assurance of your salvation. Being hospitable and inclusive won’t help there either.
Jesus was not inclusive; he was divisive. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shall be saved.” The implication is that if you do not believe on who he is…his name…then you will not be saved in the end. “Depart from me, you workers of iniquity. I never knew you.” This is very divisive; you are either on one side or the other. Which side are you on? See Jesus only a good role model and you will never come to know the truth about spiritual blessings or have the hope of heaven.
The application of 2 John and 3 John are not an excuse for you to rudely skip the neighborhood or office holiday party because a Muslim, Mormon, Jehovah Witness, a homosexual, and an adulterer are all going to be there. You can be inclusive with your good manners and kindness. Pray for grace and patience.
But, decide whether you believe what the Bible says about who Jesus is and what he did and what he will do. You might read the book of John or Ephesians 1-3 or Romans 1-5 or listen to a sermon by Martyn Lloyd-Jones on “Christ, The Hope of Glory.” (See my Resources, click ML-J Trust, search sermons, Type in Christ, The Hope of Glory, John 1:10.)
May you be richly blessed in believing in his name.