Robert E. Rasmussen
/ Tuesday, March 29, 2022
Along with prayer, the Word of God, fellowship, and serving, hospitality is a grace which every follower of Jesus should regularly practice. Much study is available to help us better understand what Biblical hospitality is. The purpose of this article is to delve into the deeper aspects of hospitality with God Himself.
I have coined the phrase “Trinitarian Hospitality” to describe the mysterious truth that the triune God opens up His community to all who believe, and remarkably, God desires to be hosted by us. In a profound sense, God is both Host and Guest, even as we who believe are also hosted by God and the guest of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The importance of this truth is seen in the fact that on the eve of His crucifixion, Jesus took pains to explain to the disciples the intimate communion which awaited them. The Apostle John recorded Jesus’ words for us in chapters 14 and 15 of his gospel. There are many occurrences in John’s account of the Greek word group which basically means “abide, remain, stay, or dwell.” (The verb is menw, and the noun is mon8). There are 11 occurrences of this word group in chapter 15 alone. Three verses in this section will be sufficient to distinguish three vital aspects of Trinitarian Hospitality.
1. The Disciple’s Future Abode with God
“In my Father’s house (Gk.oikos) are many mansions (Gk. mona, literally “abodes”); if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place (Gk. topon) for you.” 1. Jn.14:2
In this promise, Jesus assured the disciples that, after the trial of His suffering, they would be reunited with the Father in “abodes” that Jesus was going to prepare for them. Jesus would come again and receive His disciples to Himself. And why? “That where I am, there you may be also” (Jn.14:3).
God is preparing to host believers in an abode that is somehow away from this earthly existence. Believers will go to this place in a future day, but not yet. The reason is that we may enjoy the eternal hospitality of God.
Jesus clearly wants his disciples to hope for that abode and to know the way to go there, “And where I go you know, and the way you know” (14:4). Thomas objects, saying the way is unknown. To which Jesus clarifies, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (14:6). So close is the community between God the Father and God the Son that to know the Son is to know the Father, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also...” (14:7). As we travel deeper in our knowledge of Jesus during this life, we hold fast to the communion that we will share with the Father in the era to come.
2. God’s Present Abiding in the Disciple
The incarnation of the Son of God in the form of a human stands as the miracle of the ages. No other belief system goes so far as to say that God came to dwell among humankind by taking on the very body of a baby, while at the same time remaining distinct and “other” from His creation.
Now Jesus wants the disciples to understand an even more personal incarnation. Hospitality, He says, is a two-way relationship. As those who believed welcomed the incarnate Son into the world (Jn.1:12), so believers are invited and implored to provide hospitality to the Triune God.
“Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, ‘Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If any one loves Me, he will keep My word; and the Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home (Gk. mon8n, singular noun, “abode”) with him” (John 14:22-23).
This exchange comes in answer to Jesus’ statement that He will love and manifest Himself to the one who has His commandments and keeps them out of love. How would Jesus be put on display? In the soul of the devoted follower. The soul of the believer offers hospitality to God, the three in one.
This abode of the believing heart is a place where love dwells. The believer enjoys loving God, and God pours out His love in the believer’s heart. Our heart is continually transformed as this exchange of love grows throughout our lives.
The witness of the gospel, and hot core of hospitality, resides in the transformative work of the Triune God as He is hosted in the soul of a human being who believes. This manifestation is the beginning of mission.
3. The Abiding of the Disciple in Jesus as the Source of Lasting Spiritual Fruit
Jesus then led His disciples out of the upper room, down into the Kidron Valley, passing by olive groves and perhaps vineyards. His thoughts turn toward fruit-bearing, while continuing to unfold the wonder of the shared life.
“Abide (Gk. imperative verb, meinete) in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (Jn. 15:4).
Just as we look forward to our future rest in the eternal abode of God, and just as we now share in mutual hospitality within the Trinity, so our productivity for the eternal kingdom necessitates our remaining in intimate communion with Jesus.
As we practice hospitality with strangers and strugglers who come across our path, the draining challenges of continually serving can empty our emotional and physical reserves. How important that we remain cognizant of the hospitality of the soul with God. In prayer and the Word, in meditation and solitude, we can take our place among the Father who is sovereign, the Son who is our example, and the Spirit who guides and comforts. Our hospitality toward the Trinity is our source for perseverance and joy.
And so the invitation is to enter into this Trinitarian hospitality. Intimate communion with Father, Son, and Spirit is not incidental or optional to discipleship. It is not supplemental to joining God in His mission. Rather, the table of intimacy is the very source and reason of our life in the world. If we do not abide in the vine, we bear fake fruit, for the nutrition comes only from our own resources.
Therefore, we must intentionally and continually accept the invitation by entering into the fellowship of the Triune God. And equally, we must continually welcome the knock at our hearts door and let in to dwell the God who desires to be with us. It is a mystical but gritty mutual hosting, living together, sharing everything!
4. The Disciple’s Entrance into Trinitarian Hospitality as Both Guest and Host
How do we experience the abode of God more deeply? How do we become acutely aware of this profound mutual hospitality with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? I suppose books have been written to answer such questions. But I wonder if the best answer is hidden in Jesus’ guidepost, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me” (Jn. 14:6). This verse we use to point someone to eternal life also describes the pathway to deeper life for every disciple now.
In this same conversation with the disciples, Jesus shared more of how they, and we, can enter into deeper communion.
“If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide (Gk. meth’) with you forever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells (Gk. menei) with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (Jn. 14:15-18).
As we walk in obedience, Jesus prays for us, asking the Father to send the Spirit to move in and live with us and in us always. And Jesus Himself will come to us; we almost feel as if Jesus will be coming to seek us and invite us in.
Practices to Move This Truth from Head to Heart
As Jesus moved toward His suffering and death, He spoke of reuniting with us in our souls. So profound is this invitation that it merits a lifetime, even an eternity to absorb. Consider ways you can experience the hospitality within the Trinity. Here are some suggestions.
- Think back on key times in your life when God invited you to enter deeper into abiding with Him. Make a note of those times in your journal. How do those times help you reflect on your current situation?
- Is there a situation or experience through which God is currently inviting you into a place of deeper abiding? What does it seem to be?
- What obstacles are in the way? How could God help tend to them?
- Who do you need to share this with?
- Write a psalm expressing your thoughts, longing, or frustrations.
- Draw a sketch of the vine and branches, showing the kinds of fruit you would like to see.
- Read John chapters 14 and 15 slowly, asking God to highlight a word or phrase He wants you to pay attention to. Record this in your journal.
- Pray for family, friends, or colleagues who need to draw closer in their abiding with Christ.
Robert E. Rasmussen is Executive Director of Near Frontiers, a ministry of One Challenge. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Following eight years as a pastor, Bob moved with with his family to Kenya in 1990, where he provided Biblical training for rural pastors in East Africa. In 2000, Bob returned to the United States to continue mission work among the nations. After a short time of serving with Outreach Canada, Bob started Near Frontiers in 2005 in Seattle. Near Frontiers exists to help churches in America to love those who have moved into their neighborhoods. Bob loves to write and has authored several books and blogs. You may enjoy his book The Amazing Potential of One Surrendered Church. Bob enjoys playing the trumpet (which he learned in the 5th grade) and kayaking.