Hebrews 11 contains a list of people that God calls heroes, people who can teach us a lot about faith. The more time we spend with them, the more they will influence us. Verse 31 introduces our next hero: “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.” (Hebrews 11.31) Rahab’s story is found in Joshua 2.
Read Joshua 2.1–16.
Joshua, the leader of Israel, is preparing to take over the land of Jericho which God had promised to the Israelites. He sends two men to look over the land and they find hospitality from Rahab. It’s a beautiful example of hospitality. She extends kindness to someone she doesn’t know. Later, in Joshua, we learn that because of her hospitality her family is kept safe and they become part of Israel.
Hospitality isn’t a topic we talk about enough in the church. Deep down we understand the importance of it, because we all like to experience good hospitality. And we also know how terrible it is when a person, or even a church, is not hospitable. Hospitality is very meaningful when done well and painful when it isn’t.
Question: What experiences with hospitality stand out in your life? What examples of good hospitality made an impression on you? When have you experienced poor hospitality? How did each of those situations make you feel?
Rahab’s story teaches us a lot about how to do hospitality well. These five crucial truths about hospitality would be revolutionary if we lived them out.
1. Hospitality is making outsiders feel like insiders.
The two spies show up at Rahab’s door and she treats them like friends, or maybe even family. She protects them, encourages them by talking about how God is going to use them, and even gives them some strategy for getting out of town. She makes these foreigners feel like insiders. The spies do the same when they invite her to become part of Israel. And as we see in Matthew 2, Rahab even becomes part of Jesus’ lineage!
This is precisely what God calls the church to be and do. He wants us to receive outsiders as insiders and treat them accordingly.
2. The greatest gifts of hospitality come from the least likely people.
Two spies from a hostile country came into Rahab’s home. She couldn’t have expected good things to come of welcoming people who planned to attack her city. Yet it was precisely these two spies who end up guaranteeing Rahab and her family safety. Still, the gifts Rahab gave the spies are even more surprising. They couldn’t have expected to get protection, spiritual encouragement and strategy from the home of a prostitute. The greatest gifts from hospitality often come from the least likely people.
For us, that means if we want to experience the greatest gifts of hospitality we have to hang out with people who aren’t like us. We all drift toward people who are like us, but some of the greatest insights can be gotten from people who have very different backgrounds than our own—people who see life differently.
It also means that if Rahab, a prostitute, can extend awesome hospitality, then we can too. Many times we think that we’re too young or too poor or too unaccomplished or something else to extend hospitality. But if God can use Rahab to extend such powerful hospitality then He can use us too.
Question: Who can you extend hospitality to this week who has a different background than yours? What keeps you from extending hospitality more often?
3. Extending hospitality requires courage.
It took courage for the spies to invite Rahab into Israel. They had to go back to Israel, a people who greatly values moral purity, and tell them they invited a prostitute to live with them. They had to have received a great deal of criticism and scorn for their decision.
It took even more courage for Rahab to extend hospitality to the spies. By helping them she was committing treason, and the cost of treason was certain death. She put everything on the line to treat these outsiders like insiders.
Extending hospitality will require courage from us as well. It could be that we will face some criticism for who we’re hanging out with and need courage to face that. The courage we may need is simply the courage to get beyond our comfort zones. When we extend hospitality well we will end up interacting with people who may not think like us, parent like us or relate like us. It takes courage to push through how uncomfortable that can be.
Question: When have you felt uncomfortable interacting with someone different than you? How did you respond? How did that experience affect how you view the world?
4. Receiving hospitality takes even more courage.
Whenever we are on the receiving end of hospitality we are willingly putting ourselves in a place of vulnerability and trust. Rahab left her people, her homeland and her culture behind to become part of a culture that was different from her own. She had no idea if they’d really accept her. She took a huge risk!
Even though it is a risk for insiders to extend hospitality, it’s even riskier for outsiders to receive it. Stepping into a place where they need to receive hospitality can be scary. Understanding that will help us as insiders to extend grace and affirmation to those who are taking that step.
5. An experience of grace leads to the extension of hospitality.
In Joshua 2.9 Rahab says, “I know that the LORD has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.” Rahab’s motivation for extending hospitality is a fear of God. Doing something because of respect for God and His word isn’t a bad motivation. Christians have an even better motivation for extending courageous hospitality. We were all spiritual outsiders at one time.
Read Ephesians 2.11–13.
Before Jesus our sin cut us off from God and God’s people. We were outsiders. Then Jesus Christ left heaven to become the ultimate outsider on earth so that we could become the ultimate insiders with God and God’s family. It’s that experience that gives us the courage to extend hospitality. When we know that Jesus gave up His life so that we would no longer be outsiders, something changes inside of us. We can’t help but extend ourselves to others because Jesus extended Himself to us. Grace gives us the courage we need!
Question: What motivates you to show hospitality? How does this grace-based view of hospitality affect your view of our role in showing hospitality?
Grace-motivated hospitality also keeps us humble. When we’re insiders, we can get judgmental toward those who might not do things like we do. The slow creep of religion makes us forget that we only belong because of Jesus, not because of how we act. When we stay rooted in grace we realize that the ground is level at the foot of the cross and we’re just as undeserving of being an insider as the next person. Grace keeps us humble.