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Allison Althoff
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November 18, 2009

Real Hospitality

It's more than coordinating dishes and centerpieces.

The word hospitality brings to mind women-targeted magazines and TV shows like Real Simple magazine and the Martha Stewart show. I anticipate that Real Simple magazine arriving in my mailbox each month. When I get it, I’ll often sit and read it cover to cover. I love the new recipes, decorating ideas, and simple home remedies for cleaning. I’m not trying to give the magazine free publicity—I just love it. But why the connection in my head to these types of media and hospitality? Maybe because women tend to be the party throwers and organizers.

I think we’ve been somewhat deceived by our culture’s understanding of hospitality. In our culture, it’s more about throwing dinner parties with the coordinating dishes, napkins, placeholders, and centerpieces. But how often can you do this? Probably only a few times a year. While inviting people into your home is certainly part of hospitality, we’re missing the eternally deeper message of the word.

In Romans 12:10–13, Paul challenges us to “[be] devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” The words that stand out in these verses are devote, love, honor, share, practice. We’re encouraged to be an example, serving the Lord in selflessness, joy, hope, patience, and faithfulness. How would it affect the way we spend time with people outside and inside our homes if we practiced the kind of hospitality Paul describes with the words above? Would it matter if we had our fancy dishes, a spotless house, or the perfect meal?

Inviting people into our lives can be a challenge, since we live very individualized, private lives. There’s a reason most new homes are built with larger master bedrooms and smaller living room spaces. We choose to live alone for many reasons. I don’t have time; I need to “relax” after I get off work; I’m with people all day; I’m running the kids around all day, the last thing I want to do is have someone over to our house of chaos.

How do we move past the sometimes lazy, simplistic hospitality known by our culture, and biblically invite friends, neighbors, and strangers into our lives and our homes? We have to decide that the house doesn’t need to look perfect, leftovers will suffice for a meal, and we don’t have to suffer or rejoice alone in our life experiences.

Paul’s definition of hospitality speaks of living transparently in our interactions with others. To reveal the things we hope for, are afflicted with, and have spiritual fervor for, and practice those things with joy, patience, and faithfulness. We are to serve others with honor and love others above ourselves. No matter the condition of your house, the point is to create a safe place for people to come and share life with you. And hopefully, sharing life with them, whether it’s tidy or messy, will bring them closer to Christ through us.

The Message translates 1 Peter 4:8–10, “Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you.” How could we affect our neighborhood, apartment building, book club, workout class, or study group for Christ if we devoted ourselves to them in love, being generous with our time and things?
Would the world look at Christians differently? God has called us to be hospitable if it comes naturally to us or not. Let us live transparently—continually inviting people into our homes and our lives—so that others might experience the community of the church and feel welcomed into a spiritual family with God the Father.

Related Tags: hospitality, service


Lindsey, this is a great post. It's so fitting as I have been thinking about this very issue in the last few weeks. My pastor at church encouraged us as a congregation to practice truly inviting people into our lives--not on our own planned and "perfected' terms, but on theirs. He literally challenged: have someone over spontaneously. DON'T clean up the house, and DON'T make something delicious to eat. Make something from a can." He presented this with some humor, knowing how that would strike us and our natures. The very next day I had the opportunity to do just what he prescribed, and I found it to be extremely difficult. I failed, actually, running around the apartment to make things as spotless as possible. What a challenge! Thank you so much for delving into this and showing us what Scripture has to say. I hope these words really start to take root in me.

I really enjoyed this, Lindsey! I am a serial tidy-er and cleaner when I have people over. Sometimes it becomes more about how presentable my home is, rather than the people I am spending time with. Thanks for the encouragement. :)

It is very true that we are trying to show our best, instead of just breimg ourselves. A couple od years ago I invited people from the church ocer for tea, after the evening service. When they left the lady said to me: THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING, BUT DON'T EXPECT ME TO INVITE YOU OVER TO MY HOUSE. iM NOT ABLE TO SERVE YOU WITH SUCH EXPENSIVE CHINA AS YO HAVE. sINCE THAT DAY THE Royal Albert teaset was never used again!!!

This is how I feel everyday. I try to get others to gather as we did as kids. Sunday was visiting day for my family. Whether it be grandma's house or my Aunt's house. We all visited on Sundays somewhere. As I grew older, I always wanted this and it's so hard to get others engaged sometimes. I agree, it's too private and we need to share the love and generosity that our parents and grandparents did. I pray every day that others will engage in the gatherings that I invite them to and want to come back for more!

Praise God for confirmation that we are on track with our teaching. Our pastors at Embassies of Christ Church in Gary, IN have been conducting trainings on hospitality and smiling. We get so engrossed in our own lives and thoughts that we do not remember as Christians to be of service and show love to others in everything that we do. Your blog is a reminder and confirmation that hospitality is a practice -- Perfect practice makes perfect.

I was just thinking about this subject for Thanksgiving, as I have been driving myself, husband and children to start cleaning 6 days early. I realized that its being a little bit nuts, I want to spend time with friends and family I doubt that they will notice what it looks like under my fridge. Although it is still very difficult to do.

Hospitality = A heartfelt welcome into my world. A warm delight in the presence of others. A genuine sensitivity to their needs. An easy sharing of who I am and what I have. Authentic simplicity and joy in the presence of others!

I spent some time "chewing over" the word hospitality not too long ago. What I found most staggering was that the Greek word that we translate as hospitality literally means "loving the stranger." Paul was not talking about having our pew=mate from Church over for a Sunday dinner. I suspect he was talking about bringing in the widow, the homeless, the ones I don't know. Wow! Sounds like the invitees to the marriage feast that Jesus talked about--the hedge-row dwellers and those outside our respectable circles.

Sharing with you My Darling.

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is also the noble art of leaving things undone. Wisdom in life consists in the elimination of non-essentials. (Lin Yutang)

Thanks for your blog. I enjoyed it. I think (as St.Paul says) one can be different to different people. One couple doesn't like the dining room table so we always eat in the kitchen when they come. Other friends love to be entertained more elaborately - I love entertaining both, but do agree that it is the people more than the dishes that count.

Thanks for your blog. I enjoyed it. I think (as St.Paul says) one can be different to different people. One couple doesn't like the dining room table so we always eat in the kitchen when they come. Other friends love to be entertained more elaborately - I love entertaining both, but do agree that it is the people more than the dishes that count.
i agree you man !

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