Hospitality was a very important thing to the early Christians. They put it above beliefs in their understanding of Jesus. I will use a quote from Diane Butler Bass’ book Christianity After Religionto illustrate this point:
Not offering hospitality was a much greater failure than not believing that Jesus was truly God and truly human. Early Christians judged ethical failings as the most serious breach of community, even as they accepted a significant amount of theological diversity in their midst.
Hospitality to these early followers meant following Jesus’ command to love one another. But just what did they mean by hospitality? It was sharing whatever you have with those who don’t have as much. It was caring for those who had no one else to care for them. It was loving the unloved. These were things that the People of the Way were most concerned about.
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. (Matt. 25:34–36)
This testimony represents Jesus’s notion of hospitality. Unlike today, the early Christians were extremely good at hospitality. Hospitality was the primary Christian virtue. From the New Testament texts that unambiguously urge believers to “practice hospitality” (Romans 12:13) through St. Augustine’s works in the fifth century, early Christian writings extol hospitality toward the sick, the poor, travelers, widows, orphans, slaves, prisoners, prostitutes, and the dying. It totally astounds me that the current political party in the U.S. that claims the Christian banner is so unlike any of this characteristics!
From what historians can gather, hospitality—not martyrdom—served as the main motivator for conversions. People just saw how these early Christians lived and wanted to be a part of it. Hospitality was a BIG thing in the early churches.
Lets finish up this post with a quote from A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story (Bass, Diana Butler). She talks about an early Christian document call the Epistle to Diognetus (no unfortunately this one did not end up in our current day Bible as it just might have changed some of our beliefs about Jesus) :
The early Christian text (from the second or third century) known as the Epistle to Diognetus explains that Christianity is neither an ethnicity nor earthly citizenship but a way of life that is somehow at odds with the societies in which the faithful reside. Christians may look like everyone else, but their actions—including practices of hospitality, charity, and nonviolence—make them different: For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe…. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonored, and yet in their very dishonor are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honor; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life.