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.