How Christians can use ordinary moments to show hospitality

Replacing our to-do lists with prioritizing people

November 23, 2021

Recently, I was in bed and had just closed my eyes to go to sleep when I received a call from my nephew in Guam. He doesn’t regularly call me, so I knew this was important. Frantic, he let me know that one of his best friends, Sean, had recently traveled from Guam to the States to start school. This friend had been scammed by a false apartment advertisement, and he’d lost most of his money. Now he was alone in the city — my city — and needed a place to stay. There was no question; we needed to pick him up right away.

I met Sean around midnight at a closed coffee shop on the other side of Seattle where he and all his luggage were waiting for me. To my surprise, his optimism and gratitude outweighed his circumstances. We packed up my car, and we headed back home to get some sleep.

Over the next few days, our family helped Sean get settled into this big, new city. Moving is a stressful experience for everyone. That’s even more the case when you’ve been scammed. I’m so grateful for how my wife, Amy, showed Sean hospitality. I, on the other hand, had a busy to-do list that weighed on the back of my mind. Try as I might to be present and lean into the opportunity God had put before me, I couldn’t shake the anxiety I had about the tasks and projects that I couldn’t make time for. 

Even though I genuinely wanted to be present and knew that Sean was more important, I struggled internally with the tension between God’s timing and my priorities. 

Leveraging ordinary moments for extraordinary purposes

I’m convinced that Christ followers are called to leverage ordinary moments for extraordinary purposes. I believe that Jesus graciously gives us opportunities to be his hands and feet on earth. And yet serving Sean was one part conviction and two parts guilt. I think that’s because I wanted my opportunities for hospitality to come on my own terms and not on God’s terms. 

In 1 Samuel 30, a surprising act of hospitality is on display during a pivotal moment in Israel’s history. After hiding from Saul for 16 months, God brought David and his men home to their camp in Ziklag. But when they arrived there, the men’s hope of reunion with their families was met with a scene of destruction. David and his army discovered that the Amalekites had raided their camp. All of their supplies, as well as their wives and children, were gone (1 Sam. 30:3–4). 

David immediately redirected his men back toward battle. They headed out, ready to go to war in search of their families, when they discovered a traveling wayfarer. The Bible describes it this way:

David’s men found an Egyptian in the open country and brought him to David. They gave him some bread to eat and water to drink. Then they gave him some pressed figs and two clusters of raisins. After he ate he revived, for he hadn’t eaten food or drunk water for three days and three nights. Then David said to him, “Who do you belong to? Where are you from?” (1 Sam. 30:11–13a) CSB

It is fair to say David had a lot going on when they found the Egyptian. His family had been kidnapped. His men were disappointed by his leadership (at this point, the band blamed him for leaving the camp unguarded). As Israel’s future king, he was under enormous pressure. But during it all, David paused and showed hospitality to a stranger. 

It was only after the man had been revived that David was able to ask who he was. There was no initial benefit in helping the Egyptian. At first, it seemed as if this surprising act of hospitality would inconvenience David’s mission. But then the man reported, “I’m an Egyptian, the slave of an Amalekite” What an extraordinary turn of events from a surprising act of hospitality! This stranger would be the providential hinge that would lead David and his army to rescue their kidnapped families. 

David’s story shows us the value of showing hospitality even when it’s uncomfortable — even when it seems to inhibit our priorities. David didn’t let his agenda, however important, hinder an opportunity to discover God’s purpose in someone else’s need. The result was a rescued Israel, and a faith-revived king.

Whenever we must delay our plans for the sake of someone else, we feel uncomfortable. And yet the beauty of the gospel is ours to experience if we trust God’s timing. Christ’s beauty is there in the late-night car ride, the clinking of dinner plates, and the dining-room small talk. His holy love is experienced at the table — perhaps more than in life’s demands and my to-do list. In fact, part of the beauty is in the act of forfeiting the task and forgetting the to-do list.

On the receiving end of hospitality

Recently our church celebrated its first gathering in a newly purchased building. If there was an example of the church valuing service over personal to-do’s, this was it. The outpouring of love and service our people demonstrated was immense. It was in the thick of preparing for the grand opening that I was encouraged in my faith and reminded of the many people in our community who — despite their schedules — prioritized the opportunity to be hospitable and serve. 

So many church members valued serving one another over their to-do lists, and it bore fruit as the building was readied and the family gathered for corporate worship. Just as Sean was encouraged by our family’s hospitality and service to him, I was encouraged by my faith family. Now I was the recipient of the priority of hospitality put into action. I was the one who now experienced the kind of grace that I’d recently found it so difficult to give. 

On the other side of the equation, I didn’t feel guilt or anxiety, I felt gratitude. Instead of being scolded by my conscience, I was brought to the table and lifted up in service. I experienced God’s grace leveraged through the church who set aside their priorities for one extraordinary moment.

In the busyness of our lives — and the holiday season — may we be a people of gracious hospitality. May our hearts and homes be open to share the love of Christ through a warm meal, a loving embrace, or a word of encouragement. And through it all, may we come to treasure the God who went to the uttermost lengths to welcome us in. 

Mark Smith

Mark Smith serves as a pastor at The Hallows Church in Seattle, Washington. Before serving as a pastor, Smith taught children’s dramatic arts for over 10 years and has had many opportunities to serve Jesus through global missions organizations—including serving in Guam for nearly four years. Mark earned a B.A. … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24