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This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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Refreshing the Spirits of the Brethren

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One of the fundamental responsibilities of a Christian is to love his brethren. “In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (1 John 3:10-11). It is an imperative, and as Christians we should be mindful of obeying it.

One of the most effective ways to show your love for the brethren is through the practice of hospitality. It is one of an impressive list of characteristics which indicate a faithful child of God. “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality (Romans 12:10-13).

The word hospitality, as used in Romans 12, is a translation of the greek word philoxenia. The etymology indicates a fondness (phil-) for strangers or aliens (-xenos or –xenia). In fact, there is a call to express this fondness even to those we do not know. “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels” (Hebrews 13:2). This is in addition to the responsibility we have under consideration—to practice hospitality toward the brethren.

The recipient of hospitality is encouraged and strengthened by the effort. It is an indication of a love on the part of their brother or sister, and a show of thoughtfulness and caring. In 2 Corinthians 7:13 Paul wrote, “Therefore we have been comforted in your comfort. And we rejoiced exceedingly more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.” Consider the far reaching effects of the Corinthian’s hospitality. Titus had traveled to see them (verses 6-7), and had been “refreshed by you all.” But, the benefits also reached to Paul, when he heard from Titus about their faithfulness, and their good treatment of his protégé.

There are many opportunities to practice hospitality. We can show such care to brethren, preachers of the gospel, the poor, our neighbors, and the lost we come into contact with from time to time. Paul encourage the Galatians, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). Some may question the importance of opening our home to others, or sharing with them in this way. But, the Lord made clear how He viewed the practice. “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me’” (Matthew 25:37-40).

Even those who have little in the way of material means can express their love for their brethren. The smallest of gestures can uplift the heart of a brother. It might be a batch of cookies distributed to the widows in a congregation. It might be a handwritten note to a faithful teenager, or a shared sandwich at the local burger shack. The important thing is not whether the effort is an extravagant one, but that it comes from a loving and mindful heart.

And, the heart is surely the key. The practice of hospitality is the genuine outgrowth of a true love for the brethren. Because of this, it is not acceptable that the practice should be grudgingly offered. Peter wrote, “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’ Be hospitable to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:8-9). It would also be inappropriate to offer hospitality for the purpose of personal gain. We are not striving to benefit from the work, but to benefit and encourage the one to whom we offer the gift. Remember the admonition of our Lord, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:12-14).

Each of us should ask, “How can I offer hospitality to my brethren?” Or, more to the point, “How can I refresh the spirits of my spiritual family?” The practice is an indication of a spiritually mature and loving child of God. In fact, as both Titus 1:8 and 1 Timothy 3:2 state, it is a required attribute for one who would serve as an elder in the Lord’s church. A man who does not sufficiently show his fondness for his brethren is a man who has no business exercising oversight in the church.

Hospitality, in one form or another, is within the capability of every Christian. Rather than shirk the responsibility, actively seek to show your fondness toward your brethren. In doing so, you will refresh their spirits and please your God!