It’s that time of year, again! The restaurants are filling up with hungry diners … and they’re about to be really packed out. There are many more shoppers, and fewer parking spaces, at Walmart, Dollar General, Tractor Supply, the feed stores, and Cash Saver … and many more shoppers are coming into town, by the day. The seemingly endless stream of trucks and horse trailers fill the highways … and many more are on their way, sure to arrive by the weekend. And we “home folks”, especially we who are members of the Body of Christ and our local churches, have our annual opportunity to put our Faith into practice by showing our guests some, “genuine hospitality.” It’s our chance to make the folks who have traveled from near and far, feel welcome in a “BIG” way. It’s our chance to “put our best foot forward” and let the Holy Spirit produce His fruit – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” - in us.

The many people who make their annual trek to Van Buren County, always speak so well of us. I’ve met people who have come to the National Championship Chuckwagon Races since the first championship weekend in 1985. Because of the Races, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting people from not only the United States, but from other countries. Many of our guests use their annual vacation to come to watch the races, eat in our restaurants, stimulate our economy by doing business in our stores, enjoy our local attractions, and worship in our churches. And they enjoy meeting and visiting with those of us who are proud to call Clinton and Van Buren County, “home.”

Sure, with thousands of guests in town, there are inconveniences … inconveniences that we all, including our guests, experience. As with any crowd so large, there are those whose behavior, at times, may be unacceptable … but there are many, many people who are nothing but exceptionally courteous, friendly, and happy to be here. And this year, just like every year, The Lord gives us the opportunity to bless all of our guests, by being hospitable, welcoming, helpful, and friendly. The Bible says this, in Philippians 2:3-5, “Be humble … Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”

As followers of Jesus, we’re called to practice hospitality by not only meeting the needs of others, both believers and unbelievers, but to also look for opportunities to help them. The writer of Hebrews tells us this, in Hebrews 13:1-2, “Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some have entertained angels without realizing it!” In Galatians 6, Paul tells us, “We should help people whenever we can, especially if they are followers of the Lord.”

In New Testament times, inns were scarce, expensive, and often dangerous. Thus, Christian families commonly opened their homes to travelers who passed through their town or village. They would generously provide the travelers with not only a place to sleep or rest, but they would welcome them with friendship and meals. And their hospitality was given as a happy privilege, not a necessary duty. In other words, Christians found great joy and took great pleasure in being hospitable to others.

Peter reminds us that today, as Christians, we should possess the same spirit and attitude. In 1 Peter 4:9, Peter writes, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” And Paul, in Romans 12:13, says, “Always be eager to practice hospitality.”

So, let’s be intentional, biblical, and generous, in offering hospitality to our guests and to each other. Let’s determine ourselves to be welcoming, helpful, and friendly to all people, every time The Lord gives us an opportunity. Let’s consider the opportunity to be hospitable as a divine privilege, not a dreaded duty. And let’s recall the words of Jesus, “I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me … I tell you the truth, anything you did for even the least of my people here, you also did for me.”

Faron Rogers is the Senior Pastor of Clinton’s First Baptist Church