Every human craves connectivity. Even those of us who have experienced insecurity long for someone to reach out — value us in a way that breeds hope that we are likable and worth a love that doesn’t fail us when all our mess and ugly are exposed. Hospitality is like the welcome mat to someones world — giving people an opportunity to unpack and feel a sense of home, of family, of connection. Hospitality is part serving others, part being vulnerable enough to open your home and world, part bravery…because by opening up a piece of yourself and your world, you’re also opening yourself up to the possibility of criticism, judgment, even betrayal. But loving people is worth it — creating opportunities for connection is a worthy, and valuable way to live your life, even when it’s tough — because it’s what we are created for. Which means that if we don’t have it, our lives lose much of their joy and sense of worth.
Looking back at my own story, hospitality was the turning point that helped me to understand God’s love and affection. There were two ways I was impacted by it. Firstly, I saw the deep love and affection so often demonstrated between the church community I was connecting with. Secondly, I was stunned that even when I failed them — when I was rude, mean, manipulative, spiteful…just plain ugly — their love towards me didn’t end. Through watching and experiencing love…I was forever changed. And the context for these experiences was simple: life. There has to be an element of sharing life together when we’re talking about hospitality; when we’re talking about creating a community that practices hospitality. It may just be a meal. Or it may be a lifetime of shared visions, missions and experiences. But hospitality is always about sharing something you have, for the good of another.
For the Christian, the Bible commands us to both practice hospitality with our family in faith, and to the stranger (Romans 12:13, 1 Peter 4:9, Titus 1:8-9, 1 Timothy 3:2, 5:9-10). The Greek term that is translated to the English word “hospitality” in the Bible is a combination of two concepts. Study this on your own at BibleHub for more in depth info. But basically the two terms are Philos and Xenia. Philos is the Greek term for friend, and Xenia is the Greek term for stranger. I think about how Jesus was considered a friend of sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes. Why? Because he sat with them and shared a meal. Because He spent time with them. Hospitality gives us a context to connect with people in a way that shows them they’re loved, worthy, valuable, and have a place in this world. Hospitality is serving the needs of people. It’s caring about their bodies and souls. Its love. It’s a way of life. And it can change the world, one person, one community at a time.
Knowing how much hospitality changed my life, knowing it’s a requirement for the christian way of life, understanding its power in the lives of individuals and in communities; I am convicted to practice hospitality in my home and life. But the task can feel so daunting. For me, it’s the realities of having four small kids, and all the dynamics that carries with it. It may be the same for you, or it may be lack of a home, or lack of cooking skills. Here’s the truth though, everyone is qualified and called to practice hospitality. Say that to yourself a few times. Say it out loud! Because it’s true. Yes, even if you’re the most extreme introvert that has ever walked the planet. Hospitality is showing love to strangers and our family / friends by sharing our lives with them in a way that says, “You’re loved, I care, You’re valuable.” Ask God to show you how to start practicing, in your own context, in your own culture. He will, if you’re willing to listen! Over the years I’ve had many good people that I’ve been able to watch practice hospitality in their context. I’ve picked up a few things, and I want to share three ways that I set myself up to be able to better practice hospitality. I hope they’re helpful to you.
- Practice Simplicity: I make it a goal to be able to pick up and put in order my entire downstairs in 10-30min. Practically: I simply don’t own too much stuff. There are a few articles that have really encouraged me in living simply here and here. But some of the basic principles for us is that we only keep a small amount of the things that are very valuable to us. Books — only the essentials, Toys — only what is absolutely loved and what breeds imagination and creativity, Clothes & Shoes — only a weeks worth of outfits. We only keep what we feel we absolutely love or absolutely need. That is going to look different for everyone, and we’re always growing! But the bigger point is that we let our stuff serve us and our mission to love people in opening our homes to them without feeling completely overwhelmed by the amount of stuff we have to pick up before and/or after they leave. Don’t know where to start? Check out this great article.
- Engage the Whole Family: Every lifestyle change, or venture, or commitment, affects the people around us. It usually requires them to work, serve, or sacrifice in some way. Because of this, the onus is on us to share the vision! Count the cost of your commitments and ventures — not just the cost to yourself, but the cost to your family. Then strategize ways to help them see how much it’s worth the cost! Unless we cast the vision in a way that breeds ownership for our family, they could put a lot of work and sacrifice in (for your sake) and then feel resentful when hard stuff comes along (like embracing a family into our lives whose kids make fun of yours, or situations like that). But if our families own the vision — the work and the sacrifice isn’t just for you, its for a greater purpose, and it’s a choice they make before God. A few practical ideas of ways to help cast vision:
- Talk about ways hospitality expresses love to people
- Give your kids ways to participate — making crafts, cards, helping with food
- Practice flexibility and joy when it comes to having people over
- Avoid creating a stressful atmosphere by getting tense about the way your house looks
- Show love and hospitality to your own family by treating them as special in the same way you treat other people as special
- Let them taste the good fruit of community that is created through hospitality — go on adventures and allow other people to be hospitable to you, so that everyone can know how it feels.
- Be Real: The truth is that our homes aren’t always clean, we don’t always have pretty food, sometimes we smell and have snot and baby food on our yoga pants and t-shirt, and there are days when our kids behavior make us look like we’re neglectful parents. Part of being hospitable, is embracing the difference between entertaining and hospitality. The former is about making ourselves look good…the latter is about serving the needs of another. Part of hospitality is being real; giving real people the rare chance of seeing other real people be bold enough and secure enough to be real in front of other people. That was a lot of ‘real’ there — I hope you get the point!
The important thing is that we take the time to assess ourselves and the way we’ve arranged our life, and figure out what can work for us and our family to help us fulfill the call to practice hospitality — to reach out to our fellow humans — to create opportunity for connection — to share life together. It’s an adventure, and it’s worth it!
Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2)
Hospitality: noun [Latin hospitalitas.] The act or practice of receiving and entertaining strangers or guests without reward, or with kind and generous liberality. (Webster 1828 Dictionary)::: The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers. (Dictionary.com)