So When Do I Get to Come Over?

I was reading 1 Timothy 3 again the other day and something jumped out of the passage on the qualifications of overseers that I had never noticed before.
"This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil" (1 Timothy 3:1-7, NKJV).

That word "hospitable" jumped out at me. The New Living Translation of the Bible renders it, "He must enjoy having guests in his home" (1 Timothy 3:2). Hospitable. It almost forms a hub around which everything else in the passage gathers. Think about it: if you are welcome in my home, you'll get a pretty good sense of my relationship to my wife and my children. Maybe you'll notice whether or not I have a well-stocked wine cabinet ("not given to wine"). How I relate to my family will tell a lot about whether or not the graces of gentleness have taken root. Or are the wife and I always at each other's throats ("not quarrelsome")?

Isn't that something?! I admit, I had never noticed "hospitable" before. Yeah, I read it, but read right past it. It suddenly makes sense to me. And so often people who don't want to have folk into their homes (not everybody, but a lot of folk) don't want their guests to see who they really are. If I come to your house I'll begin to get a sense of your relationship to your neighbors and community ("people outside the church must speak well of him").

I've been affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church all of my life. I am growing in my conviction that we are headed in the wrong direction as a body in many ways. One of the things that has largely been lost is fellowship that occurs IN THE HOMES of members. We do well to have fellowship dinners at the church. But the church dinner doesn't SHOW the unbeliever or the new believer what your faith looks like as you live it in your home.

We've gotten so busy as believers that we don't take the time to clean our homes and cook a meal on the Preparation Day so we can have somebody home. I'm not a legalist. I will go out to eat on the Sabbath, especially when I'm traveling. I'm not trying to starve myself or my family. But I wonder about going out to eat every Sabbath after church when you're local. Look! God is the righteous Judge, but we need to ask ourselves some hard questions. Why don't we take the time to prepare a meal and have somebody over to break bread with us?

If I am a new believer I learn better how to become a disciple by walking with another more experienced disciple. Sure, let's go to Sabbath School and discuss what Leviticus 11 tells me I should and should not eat. But invite me to your home so I can see what a tasty meal without "any animal that has divided but unsplit hooves or that does not chew the cud" tastes like! Don't just tell me, SHOW ME! The Sabbath should be kept holy. OK, I accept that at a cognitive level. You've built your case out of the Scripture. But I've never kept it before. Whenever I went to church it was for two or three hours at the most and then we went to the mall to eat and go shopping. What in the name of our Holy Father am I supposed to do for 24 hours if I'm a new believer? I joined the church, not everyone in my household or all of my old friends in my neighborhood! Am I supposed to go into my bedroom and lock the door until the sunsets!? Oh! And how do I figure out when the sun sets? I see it on the news . . . but I can't turn my TV on because I'm not suppose to watch TV until after the sun sets on Saturday. But if you invite me to your house I can see that the Sabbath can be a joy and not drudgery.

And elders are supposed to set the standard for the rest of the church. The qualifications of elders (and deacons in the passage that immediately follows) are not ANY HIGHER than that expected of EVERY MEMBER OF THE BODY OF CHRIST. None of us ought to be given to wine, none of us gets a free pass to polygamy, all of us ought to have a good testimony outside the church. The qualifications of elders are there because the elders are to set a standard for the rest of the church to follow. The elders are to show the others the way. Yes, elders should be able to teach to TELL the Good News. But Elders also ought to be hospitable because hospitality SHOWS what a life converted, what a home transformed by the Good News looks like.


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