Hospitality Week 3: Romans 12:13


Romans 12:13 intro

We need to look at the context of this verse to really grasp what’s going on (per usual). Paul wrote this letter to the church in Rome, with chapters 1-11 being a theological overview of Christianity, and chapters 12-16 being application, exhortation, and some other stuff. Here in 12:13 we’re in that application section, in which Paul is saying, “Based on everything I’ve said about the Gospel for 11 chapters, here’s how we should live.” These exhortations were both specifically applicable to the church in Rome and generally applicable to all Christians.

Now, Paul was writing in a time when AirBnB wasn’t a thing. Inns were unsafe, often full, and might even be discriminatory towards Christians. So Christians relied on the hospitality of fellow believers, either when traveling or in some sort of crisis. Paul was prepping the church in Rome for the 2:00am knock at the door, so they would be ready to show hospitality even when it was inconvenient and costly to them. So when Paul says, “contribute to the needs of the saints,” and “seek to show hospitality,” he’s talking about the same sort of thing, though we can interpret this as providing for the needs of the saints specifically and showing hospitality to others generally.

And here’s something really interesting: Paul sticks his command to be hospitable in between commands to care for the saints in verse 13 and to bless your persecutors in verse 14. And, though we don’t see it in our English translations, Paul uses really similar Greek words for “seek” in verse 13 and “persecute” in verse 14; he’s indicating to the early church that Christians should chase after hospitality (kind of like they’re being chased) and that it should involve considerable effort on their part.

So then, we should be ready to expend considerable effort to show hospitality, even when it is costly to us. You’ll see that that doesn’t really jive with our normal understanding of hospitality, in which we just make sure the house is clean and set out cookies, in which we usually only make time for others when it’s convenient for us. Thinking about welcoming others at great cost to yourself might remind you of our discussion two weeks ago in Romans 15:7: welcome others as Christ welcomed you. We’ll look at that verse again this week, to root our showing of hospitality in a Gospel framework, before considering how we can push against our tendencies to withhold hospitality when it’s costly. Jesus’ treatment of us is all the reason we need to welcome others even when it’s challenging.

Questions for Discussion

• Can someone read Romans 12:13 for us?

• What do we typically mean when we use the word “hospitality” today?

• What do you think the word “hospitality” means in this verse? Take a look at the verses around it for context.

• Let’s look at Romans 15:7. Could someone read that?

• How has Jesus been hospitable to you?

• What could it mean for you to practice the kind of hospitality you’ve been shown by Jesus?

• What are some ways for us to deal with feeling inconvenienced or overwhelmed by being hospitable?