Being a friend begins with hospitality.
Levi hadn’t been a believer for long. He had just made the radical decision to leave behind his old life as a tax collector and follow Jesus, but his heart was still burdened for his friends who were far from God. He desperately wanted them to know Jesus the way he had come to know Him. So what did he do? He did what he knew best — threw a party!
This was no ordinary party; it was a party with a purpose. Levi invited his old buddies as well as Jesus and his new friends. I’m sure the night before he probably thought to himself, “I don’t know if this is going to work. I hope the party isn’t a huge failure!” As it turned out, it was a huge success. Jesus and His followers were striking up conversations with Levi’s wild friends. As they shared a meal together, slowly the walls began to come down, and hearts began to open (Luke 5.27-29 ESV).
There is something powerful that happens over a meal. I can’t really explain it, but somehow, when I share a meal with someone, the walls tend to come down. Jesus often shared a meal with friends who had spiritual questions. He would gather in the house of close friends for long, spiritual discussions (Luke 10.38 ESV), and He would often share a meal with spiritual explorers searching for answers (Luke 14.1, 19.5 ESV).
This practice of sharing a meal is called hospitality in the Scriptures and also could involve providing housing for a short period of time. This tradition of hospitality was a practice of godly people, especially followers of Jesus in the first century (1 Timothy 3.2, 5.10 ESV). It was also something Jesus expected His followers to do (Matthew 25.38 ESV). (Titus 1.8 NIV) simply says, “…be hospitable….”
Why is hospitality so important? I believe that God moves when you share a meal for the purpose of demonstrating Christ’s love, extending friendship and initiating a spiritual conversation. God often begins to open up their hearts to you and, hopefully, to the Gospel. I have found that some of my most productive spiritual conversations have taken place at a restaurant over lunch or breakfast. It’s there that men tend to crack open their hearts just a bit, so you can see what they are really dealing with inside.
I remember slowly building a friendship with a neighbor in our cul de sac. After several street side conversations, I said, “Hey, we should go grab coffee with our wives away from the kids! You open?” Surprisingly, he said, “Yes.” A few days later, the four of us settled into a table at a local coffee house. Just sitting together, I could feel that we had taken a huge step in the relationship.
After a few minutes of casual talk, as the conversation started to hit a lull, I said, “Ok, we want to hear your story! Let’s have it!”
“What do you mean?” my friend asked.
“I want to hear about where you grew up; how you two met and got married. Give us the long play version.”
He smiled, looked at his wife and said, “OK!”
For the next hour we laughed a lot, heard some heartbreaking stories and — over coffee — began to build a friendship. Because of that friendship, I had the opportunity to talk to both of them about Christ in the days and months ahead.
You have heard the phrase many times, but it still holds true; “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” The way you show you care is by taking the time to listen. The best way to listen is over a shared meal. When you show your friends you care, then they will trust you when you begin to share about the most important relationship in your life!
Photo Credit: Lee Myungseong