By Pastor Glenn Pease
Late one night in Philadelphia and elderly couple came into a little third class motel. The husband said to the night clerk, "Please don't tell us you don't have a room. My wife and I have been all over the city looking for a place to stay. We didn't know about the big conventions that have filled the motels. We are dead tired and its after midnight. Please don't tell us you have no place for us to sleep." The clerk looked at them for a long moment and then said, "The only room available is my own. I work at night and sleep in the daytime. It's not as nice as the other rooms but its clean. I'll be happy to let you use it for the night." The wife said, "God bless you young man."
The next morning they invited the clerk to breakfast and they said, you are too fine a hotel man to be in a place like this. How would you like to be the manager of a large luxurious hotel?" The clerk was suspicious about them, but he did stammer out, "It sounds wonderful." They said they would contact him, and believe it or not, the man became the best known hotel man in the world. That couple were the Astors, and they went and built the famous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. It had 1900 rooms, and this young man who shared his room for one night of hospitality was made the manager. He had not entertained angels unaware, but he had entertained a millionaire. And he was rewarded beyond his wildest dreams.
Paul does not say that Christian leaders will all be rewarded with great jobs if they show hospitality, but he does make this a requirement just to be a positive Christian leader. We think of hospitality more along the lines of having people over for a meal, or of scheduling parties as a place for people to meet and fellowship. This is a valid concept, but the experience of the young clerk is more in keeping with the original idea of hospitality. The word comes from hospital, and if you trace the word hospital, you discover that it was first of all a place to shelter and entertain strangers. The first hospitals were more life motels and hotels. People travelling needed a place to stay in the old days as well as now, and where they stayed was in the hospital.
This is directly related to the Greek word we are exploring for hospitality. It is the word philoxenos, which means the love of strangers. To be hospitable means to be open to care for the needs of people you do not know. Paul is not saying a Christian leader is one who must run his own motel, but he is saying that they must be those who are willing to take people in and give food and shelter. The idea is that a leader should set an example of Christlikeness in being willing, as Jesus was, to share all he had to meet the needs of others. Hospitality is part of the spirit of ministry. You have to give of yourself to be hospitable. It takes time, effort, and money to care about people. The Good Samaritan found a stranger in need and gave of his time and money to put him up in a motel.
The original meaning is love of strangers, and so it is not the same thing as having fellowship with other Christians at your home. It has to do with your compassion for the people you don't even know. Peter uses this same word in I Pet. 4:9 where he writes, "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling." Apparently some Christians were doing the right thing, but with the wrong spirit. They help their fellow Christians in their travel, but they did not like it, and it was a burden.
The fact is, the only way to be a good Christian is to bear one another's burdens. You just can't get by and be a good Christian if you don't pay some sort of price in helping others along the road. Sometimes we forget this and expect to sail along and not have to bear other's burdens, but that is escapism, and it is not fitting for someone who is a Christian leader. If every Christian is to be hospitable, then the leader is one who is to be setting the pace and be showing hospitality in a conspicuous way.
Hospitality to Christians can be a burden. The cost of food is such that feeding people very often can be a major expense. But this is usually enjoyable and you benefit from it on the spot. But Jesus said in Luke 14 that we are not to invite people you know to your party. Invite people you know will never invite you back. They are the poor and handicapped, and they could not be good hosts if they wanted to. This is real hospitality, and you are then managing a hospital-a place where the needs and health of strangers is cared for. This is a real sacrifice, and there will not necessarily be any reward on the spot. But Jesus concluded in Luke 14:14, "Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
One of the records that God keeps in heaven is the record of all the acts of hospitality that we perform. If you show love for a stranger and be hospitable, you may be as surprised as the young clerk who got the reward of his life for being hospitable to strangers. Jesus said that even a cup of cold water given in His name will not go unrewarded. God loves the hospitable person in a special way because it is a special form of love that makes itself available to all in need. This is a very God like quality. Jesus came unto His own and His own received Him not, but there were some who did. They opened their home to Him and gave Him a place of comfort and retreat. In Bethany, for example, was the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. They were special people in the life of our Lord because of their hospitality.
Jesus took the issue of hospitality so seriously that He made it a basis for judgment when He comes again. Those who are welcomed into His kingdom are those who exercised hospitality. Matt. 25:34-36 says, "Then the king will say to those on his right, come, you who are blessed of my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." You could reduce this paragraph to one sentence and say, "I was in need of hospitality and you gave it to me."
The first Christian hospital was founded in obedience to this passage. In the year 370 A. D. in the town of Edessa, Syria there was a severe famine. The hermit Ephraim came out of his seclusion to scold the citizens who had abundance for letting the poor die of starvation. They said, "But there is nobody we can trust to use our wealth for good." He said, "What about me?" They agreed that he was an honest man and large sums of money were given. He ordered 300 beds to be set up in the public porches, and the first Christian hospital was born to feed and care for the poor. Strangers and local inhabitants were equality welcome.
Five years later Basil, bishop of Caesarea, open up another hospital not far from this first one. From then on to this day Christians have been in the hospital business. Many famous preachers in history were builders of hospitals. John Chrysostom, the golden mouth preacher, in the early 400's build several hospitals. There were the motel type just for strangers to have a place to stay as they traveled. The church started the motel business out of the spirit of hospitality. But the needs were varied and so they built hospitals for the ill as well, and then they built them for cripples, and then for orphans. The first was founded by St. Jerome in Bethlehem. They had hospitals for the old as well, and also for the very poor and destitute. The monasteries were built also as places where strangers could find shelter and food.
St. Augustine started a hospital in his own home, and often he sat down to eat with the guests. Bishops were expected to manage hospitals, for all Christian leaders were expected to be hospitable. The point is, the teachings of Jesus and Paul radically affected the history of the church in the area of hospitality. In modern times many of these institutions started by the church have become secular businesses. The Gideons still have their Bibles in the motels and hotels, but it is basically a secular business. When you travel and have a nice place to stay and rest, remember that you have it because Jesus demanded that strangers be treated with love.
Philoxenos means love of strangers, and that is the Greek word for hospitality that Paul says a Christian leader is to possess. If you don't care about strangers, but only care about people you know, you do not qualify to be a Christian leader, for you lack a basic Christlike quality of spirit.
The next positive qualification Paul gives is that he must be one who loves what is good. This seems so obvious that you would think that it would go without saying. Whoever heard of the question being asked, "Do you love what is good, or is the bad your preference?" You have to keep in mind we are dealing with a very corrupt culture in Crete. It was the custom to love lying, laziness, and gluttony. The bad was so popular that a Christian leader had to love what was good, which meant the truth, being honest, and being a good worker. It meant he had to be living a life of balance. A Christian leader is to be one that gets his pleasure in life by means of the virtues rather than the vices. It is a life where what is true, lovely, and of good report is basic to ones pleasures.
To be a lover of the good is somewhat vague, and no doubt this is one purpose, for what is good is quite subjective. What is good music, art, food, or anything where the tastes and opinions of men vary? Paul does not get specific, for the idea is simply that a Christian leader is to be one who loves what is universally accepted as good. A lover of good is always a positive influence in the church and the community, for he loves what is good for all. You can depend on them to support what is good for the body and what will make life better for all. A lover of what is good is a lover of all people, for they care about everyone getting what is good for them.
Everyone does this at some time. A little girl who was usually quite disruptive in Sunday School was very good one Sunday. The teacher said to her, "You have been such a good girl today." And she responded, "I couldn't help it, I got a stiff neck." To be a qualified Christian leader Paul says you have to be good and a lover of the good, and not by accident, but on purpose.
The third positive quality is that he must be self-controlled. The best form of government is the self-government of one whose ultimate loyalty is to God. Our pledge of allegiance says, "One nation under God." That is to be our personal pledge-one life under God. When I can so control my life and all my drives so that I can choose to obey the will of God, as best as I understand it, then I am self-controlled, and living under the best form of government in the world. I cannot control what happens in Washington, or at the state capital, or in my neighbors life, but I can control what happens in my life. I have the deciding vote in all of my choices. In fact, I am a dictator and a totalitarian ruler over the dominion of self. If my allegiance is to Christ, and the Bible is my constitution, I can live under the perfect form of government.
Most Cretans were not self-controlled, but were under the control of the culture. They conform to the culture and went along with the lack of moderation. This led to a great deal of dishonesty, deception, and sensual indulgence. They were not in control of their lives, but were the captives of the culture being swept along with whatever the craze of the moment was. You cannot be a leader if you are not in control of your life. If you are just being swept along by the current of the culture, how can you lead others to be not conformed to the world? A Christian leader has to show that he or she is not under the control of the culture, but that they operate under self-control.
A leader of others needs to be first of all a leader of self. A. J. Gordon said, "The greatest battlefield in which a man ever fought is within himself." A leader is to be one who has fought that battle and won so that he is in control of the territory called self. He can rightly surrender this territory to Christ because he is its ruler. The reason so many Christians cannot surrender many aspects of their life to Christ is because they are not in control. I cannot surrender to His Lordship what I do not control anymore than I can surrender my neighbor's bank account over which I have no control.
The United States is the most powerful nation in the world, but it cannot surrender to the U. N. property in Canada over which it has no control. You hae to have self-control to yield yourself to Christ. If the culture controls 50 per cent of your life, that 50 per cent will be a battle ground. Why do Christian leaders fall into sin and destroy their ministry, and damage the cause of Christ? It is because they have certain areas of their life where they do not have self-control. They are not fully in charge, but are under the control of outside forces. They cannot surrender these areas of life to Christ because they do not control them.
This lack of self-control is the number one cause for Christian leaders falling into sin. They end up as poor leaders even though they may succeed marvelously for a while, and it is because they fail to gain full self-control. It is universally acknowledged that there is no greater victory in life than the victory over self. Shakespeare in Love's Labor Lost says, "Brave conquerors, for so you are that war against your own affections and the huge army of the world's desires." Paul says that only those victorious in this battle should be leaders of others, for how can you lead others if you cannot eve lead yourself to be obedient to the Lordship of Christ?
The 4th quality he adds is that of being upright. This is a virtue referred to over 80 times in the New Testament. It is a virtue of all the good people of the New Testament, and it refers to the character of God and Jesus also. The key words in the KJV in English are just, right, and righteous. This term covers the whole of life, and the upright person is one who can be counted on to do what is right. It includes all of life, and it becomes a term to cover the whole category of people that please God. God sends rain on the just and the unjust. The just are the upright. The same Greek word is used to refer, not just to a virtue, but to the whole body of God's people.
Paul says the just shall live by faith. They are those who are upright and pleasing to God. Jesus refers to the resurrection of the just, and He means all those who are saved. This word came to stand for all God's people. They are the just and the upright. Every Christian is to be this, but the leaders especially, for they are to be examples of how good God's people can be.
The next qualification is somewhat scary to us, for Paul says a leader is to be holy. It is not the usual word for holy that is used over 200 times in the New Testament. The word here is hosios which is used only 8 times. This word means kind and gracious. It is the focus on just one aspect of God's holiness. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. God is so kind and gracious that it is beyond our comprehension. A leader is to reflect this kind of love for people. He or she is to be an example of just how kind and gracious a Christ like person can be.
Many Christians are damaged goods in this area of life. They have been so conditioned by their past that they find it very difficult to be kind and gracious to certain people. They have deep seated prejudices that hinder them. If they lack the self-control to prevent it, they will let their unkindness be exposed, and they will do damage to the cause of Christ. A leader is to be one who could go the home of a Pharisee and eat with him even though he despised his attitudes and actions. He could be kind and gracious to the worst of people, be they high and noble, or the most lowly and despicable.
This is a sort of holiness that just the opposite of what we usually think of as holy. Holy is usually to be separated unto God. It is to be detached and free from the sin and folly of the world. But here is another side of holiness. It is the ability to be in the presence of sin and sinful people and be kind and gracious rather than offensive. A Christian leader needs this ability if he or she is going to represent the Lord Jesus, who was and is the greatest friend of sinners.
Commander Mitsuo Fuchida lead the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that killed thousands of Americans. He was in Hiroshima the day before the atomic bomb was dropped, but he left and escaped getting some of his own medicine. He wondered why he was spared. After the war ended he was very bitter against the Americans. He sought of evidence that they were like beasts who tortured Japanese prisoners. He asked a friend who had been a prisoner of war about his experience. The friend eagerly related how a nurse, the daughter of American missionaries, had nursed him back to health with love and kindness.
This nurse knew her parents had been shot by the Japanese in the Philippines. They were shot as they knelt in prayer. Fuchida was shaken by this testimony, and others like it. He got a Bible and began to read it. Listen to his testimony: "When I came to Luke 23 and read Christ's prayer just before He died on the cross, then I understood. I met Jesus that day. He came into my heart and changed my life from military officer to a warrior for Christ." He traveled over the world preaching the Gospel, and all this happened because a Christian showed great kindness to one who was an enemy. That is positive Christian leadership that changes the world.
The final positive quality we are looking at is that a leader is to be disciplined. Temperate is the word in the KJV. It is used in all its forms only 5 times in the New Testament. It means to be self-restrained. It is the word Paul used in I Cor. 9 to describe the sportsman who goes into strict training to discipline his body so that he can be a winner in the games. It is part of the whole issue of self-control, but it narrows down to being one who exercises to build up his ability to refrain from that which hinders his running the good race for Christ.
A leader is not content just to be a Christian. He wants to be a good Christian, and the best Christian he can be. They put forth effort in order to grow. They are ever reaching up to find better ways to apply God's Word in their lives. They are the people who are not satisfied with surface Christianity. They long for depth, and they do something about it. The implication is clear. There is no easy road to being a Christian leader. It is usually very hard work. You can be a natural in sports, but if you are not disciplined you will not win, for someone with less talent will be working hard to beat you, and they will if you rely only on your talent. Discipline is what keeps breaking records in every event of the Olympics. Discipline is what makes the best in every field of endeavor.
When Lillian Nordica, the great soprano, gave an amazing performance in Indianapolis, Albert Beveridge, who became a U. S. Senator, praised her for her incomparable throat, she became angry and said, "Not my incomparable throat but hard work, weeks of it-years of it! Discipline and sacrifice, these made my performance tonight possible!" Top notch people in any field resent the idea that they just have the gift, and so it is no big deal that they are so good. They give their lives to be that good. It takes enormous discipline. So to be the best positive Christian leader you can be takes discipline and sacrifice. It is hard work, and without those willing to make the sacrifice to be such, the church cannot survive, let alone thrive. May God motivate us to pay the price to make our Lord proud of us by being committed to His standards of positive leadership.