Radically Ordinary Hospitality

What comes to mind when you hear the word hospitality? I think most people envision extending an invitation to people, an immaculately clean house, fancy table settings, an elaborate menu, entertaining guests, and then sending them off on their way home. But what if we treated hospitality as deeper and more relational than that? What if there was a constant open invitation into our homes and the messy reality of our everyday lives that did not end when we told our guests goodbye as they left at the end of the night? What if we traded the fancy china for something more practical that made everyone feel completely comfortable and welcome in our lives and homes (yes, even those that we do not agree with or even always like)? I love my neighbor, not because they love me in return or can do things for me, but because they are mine. There is something wonderful about giving a gift that will never be repaid. It may cost me something now, but when I have an eternal perspective in mind, the cost is never too great. The ancient Greek word for hospitality used in the Bible is philoxenia, which translates as ‘love of strangers.’ Hospitality makes strangers into neighbors and neighbors into family. This cannot happen without being close enough to have deep, personal, and even awkward conversations with people. I want my house to be a house where everyone is comfortable to talk about anything, no matter what. A house where we are not afraid of and do not hide sin and repentance. This will not happen if I am not willing to show people the mess of our everyday lives – to be transparent and vulnerable.

Biblical hospitality seeks to show love to each person we meet in a way that they will recognize and feel. It meets people where they are and loves them for who they are. Biblical hospitality is relational and leaves no room for independent onlookers – we should be either giving or receiving hospitality. It opens the door for us to build intimacy with believers and unbelievers alike which allows for differences to be discussed and for truth to be both spoken and received in love. In The Gospel Comes with a Housekey, Rosaria Butterfield discusses what she calls the “Jesus paradox.” Jesus touched hurting people, like the leper in Luke 5:13; he met them when they were empty or at their lowest and he left them full. Jesus took everything people thought they knew and turned it upside down, including our sense of hospitality. God is sovereign and does some of his best work in the middle of suffering or crisis. What if hospitality looked like using our homes as a hospital for the people in our neighborhood?  What better way is there to bring Jesus and the church to the community around us than to invite them into our homes and show them love and grace in times of suffering? We have the truth, the answer to so many of their questions. Why do we not give it to them? What is holding us back? Are we truly risking anything if it all belongs to the Lord anyway?

If you are anything like me, then maybe you're a busy mom who constantly has children attached to your leg or throwing tantrums or making messes. Even when we start to open our door to others, we apologize for the mess or our childrens’ behavior. You might be an introvert and find being around people to be draining. As an introvert, I find that I refuel by being alone; however, I cannot allow the fact that I am an introvert to be an excuse. If I do, then I miss out on great opportunities and blessings that come from practicing hospitality. As Rosaria Butterfield put it, “knowing [my] personality and sensitivities does not excuse [me] from ministry.” It just means that I may need to prepare for it differently than other people do and find other ways to get the alone time I need to recharge.
Let’s not miss out on all of the opportunities that come from practicing daily hospitality in our homes with those in our neighborhoods and communities around us. Hospitality is not meant to be glamorous or to be entertainment. It is meant to serve and love others. It is meant to share what we have with those around us and to showcase God’s glory. It is meant to be radical. It welcomes all people into our homes and shows the world that God has a plan for welcoming his enemies into his presence. When done well, hospitality reflects God’s character. We should welcome others into our lives and homes in the same way that Christ has welcomed us.

We cannot do any of this in our own strength, but rather we need Jesus. It takes humility, obedience, and dependence on God because we are powerless on our own. In order to obey in the way God requires, we must first receive his grace, pick up our cross, and die to ourselves and our idols. The gospel comes in exchange for the life we once loved. Dying to self leads to obedience, which leads to dependence on God, which leads to worship. What we win people with is what we win them to, so let’s win them with the gospel.

Grace & Peace,
Katie Meyer