In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying.”
— ACTS 9:10-11
Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.” …Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along.
—ACTS 10:4-6, 23
We know Peter and Paul well. They were two of the most important leaders in the early church and, consequently, in the entire history of the church. Pull back the curtain, and
you see Cornelius and Ananias standing behind Peter and Paul. Cornelius’ request for a visit helped Peter interpret his creaturely vision and understand God’s heart for Gentiles. Ananias obeyed God’s call to meet Saul, later called Paul, and helped transform the Church’s strongest opponent into its greatest proponent.
Behind another curtain, you’ll find two people who aren’t as familiar: Simon and Judas. What do we know about Simon, a tanner in Joppa, and Judas, a resident of Damascus? Simon opened his Joppa home to Peter and the people sent by Cornelius to allow an initial meeting. He witnessed the beginning of a game-changing conversation with huge implications affecting the church today.
Blind and thoroughly shaken-up, Saul was led to Judas’ home in Damascus, where he stayed until Ananias showed up. Can you imagine hearing Ananias’ prayer and witnessing the scales fall from Saul’s eyes first-hand?
These experiences came from exercising the Holy Spirit’s gift of hospitality!
Some are called to lead the Church, and others to strengthen their ministries, but there are many who have the awesome privilege of employing their Spirit-given gift of hospitality to provide a setting for God’s work to be done. Opening your home or meeting someone for coffee, with a prayer to be used by God for Kingdom advancement, is an important though sometimes overlooked and often undervalued gift God has given to his church.
Take heart, hospitable one. Keep encouraging others and watch for God to build his Church right before your eyes!
1. Whose gift of hospitality has encouraged me along my journey with Jesus?
2. If you have this gift, when will you use it next? If you don’t have this gift, who has it that you can affirm?
Douglas Gerrard has served in the C&MA for 36 years as a pastor and district superintendent and is currently executive vice-president. He is married to Glendyne (Director of Defend Dignity). They live in Oakville, ON.