I grew up in a home where we often had others into our home for the purpose of fellowship and hospitality. In serving as a pastor for more than 20 years now, my wife and I have always sought opportunities to spend time with people inside and outside our church body to cultivate relationships and to build into them spiritually.
This purposeful attention to being hospitable is biblical:
- “…contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.” (Rom. 12:13)
- “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” (1 Pet. 4:9)
- “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Heb. 13:2)
Yet there is also a time to be inhospitable. In fact, it’s sometimes wise to be inhospitable.
When I was in high school, we lived in Minnesota, and I remember at least two occasions when my father stood outside in freezing temperatures in his shirtsleeves for upwards of an hour while talking to individuals who had come by to attempt to persuade us to follow their religion. When I asked him why he did that, he replied that he did not want to show hospitality to those who were deceptive and false teachers. He was not being disobedient to the verses above, but being faithful to another principle of hospitality, outlined in John’s second epistle.
“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting” (2 Jn. 10).
John says this because there are many deceivers (v. 7). It is important to note that there are not only people who teach falsely, but that there are many who teach falsely with the intention of leading people astray. They are not followers of Christ (v. 7); instead, they reject His coming as the eternal God-Man and are opposed to Him as antichrists. The differences between these deceivers and the follower of Christ are not minor. The differences are the very foundation of the faith. They are attacking the very essence of what it means to be a believer. They are seeking to destroy biblical Christianity.
Since these are opposed to Christ, we are to be watchful of ourselves (v. 8), that we do not succumb to their deceptions and give up the faith for which we have labored. And John reminds the reader that these people can be identified by their lack of identity with Christ and lack of obedience to Christ (v. 9). And when these people come to us and our homes, we are not to be hospitable to them (v. 10), embracing them as we would other believers, or even treating them as unbelievers who are in need of Christ but just don’t know about Him. No, these are deceivers and deluders and they must not be granted the right hand of fellowship; they are no better than Satan himself, who also disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:13-15).
John MacArthur has summarized the believer’s responsibility when confronted with these false teachers by saying, “Complete disassociation from such heretics is the only appropriate course of action for genuine believers. No benefit or aid of any type (not even a greeting) is permissible.…Hospitality to such leaders aids the spread of their heresy and inevitably leaves the impression of sanctioning the teachings of these antichrists (cf. 2 John 2:22). Supreme loyalty to God and His Word alone must characterize the actions of every true believer.”