I’ve been on sabbatical the past few weeks from hosting bible studies and other events at our house. I needed time to be with the Lord; to regroup I guess. I felt that I couldn’t glorify God in my hospitality until I had time to be with him and get my mind back where it needed to be. Over the years as we’ve hosted many parties, events, dinners, etc. in our home people have commented about me having the gift of hospitality. That may or may not be true, but for me, hospitality is more of an act of obedience to God more than anything else. I came to marriage with no recipe cards, little cooking experience (does scrambled eggs count?), and great anxiety about having people in our home.
We had friends in college who demonstrated hospitality in their little house and we had appreciated it so much that we determined that we would figure the whole hospitality thing out. I got recipes wherever I could find them and tried them out. We invited people into our humble home, sitting around a donated table with folded chairs for seating. Out of obedience, I continued to invite people in but I was always filled with anxiety. Thoughts would fill my head: “We don’t have enough room, I’m not that good of a cook, I’m really bad at socializing, etc.” For many, when we think of hospitality we think of what we can see with our eyes: clean home, perfectly presented food, extravagant recipes, flickering candles, etc. I’m not sure that would fit the bible’s definition of hospitality. Over the years God has been working in my heart to teach me what it really means to open our doors and let people in.
It means to open the doors of our hearts so we can engage in sweet communion with others. It means inviting others to share the dirtiness of their lives, even if it spills over into our home, creating a mess.
It means opening our hands to share whatever we have with others. It means acknowledging that our home is not our own and nor anything in it. When someone is in need, we open our hands to them.
At times, I’ve been more of a Martha than a Mary in my hospitality. Worrying about the details instead of the purpose of the gathering. Not that good food and a clean home are bad, but my heart should be focused on the fellowship, the sharing, the learning, the giving that is to occur during whatever event is happening in our home. That’s part of what I mean about obedience. I believe we are called to this messy thing called hospitality and messiness is hard for me. I like organization, cleanliness, peace. But as I obey God in this calling, I am changed.
It’s not just a home that is shared in hospitality. The heart of hospitality opens doors to many opportunities to minister to others in their need. A friend had totaled the family car, leaving a two-seater truck and four people. With open hands we traded our car for the truck until they had the means to get a new one. Men without work, trying to make ends meet. We invite them to earn a good wage at our home–cutting down trees, painting, anything so that they can make money without losing their pride. Friends unable to pay bills–we give what God has blessed us with. Visiting friends in the hospital, a tiny cramped room. What can we get to make it more comfortable? Friends who need a listening ear, stop on by. New people visiting church, come on over so you can feel welcome and enjoy fellowship.
Open hands and open hearts.
Is is reciprocated? Not usually. Do we get thanks in return? Sometimes. But if it was reciprocated then it wouldn’t be true hospitality on our part. “It is more blessed to give than receive.” I’d rather give anonymously than receive a thanks in return because it is God who deserves the thanks. It is God who has blessed in abundance and who uses us to pass that on to others.
Do you wish to open your home more often? Do you think you don’t have the natural talent for making a dinner for everyone to enjoy? Do you think that you just need to wait until you have purchased that sectional you’ve been eyeing before having people over?
1. Don’t worry about cleanliness to the point that it distracts you from what you are called to do. My mantra in my head is “Am I cleaning this for their comfort or so that I will feel better about my home?” (I recommend always cleaning bathrooms:)
2. A home that invites people to share their lives is not one that is perfectly dressed. It’s the warmth in the hearts of the hosts that create the warmth and coziness in the home.
3. God has given good gifts to everyone. Sometimes they are big gifts and sometimes not so big. Whatever blessing you receive is also a blessing that is meant to share with others.
4. Look for ways and opportunities to open your heart and your hands. Opportunities are everywhere, God plants them right in front of you all the time.
5. Don’t know what food to make? Ask for recipes or order something pre-made.
No matter how God calls you to show hospitality, remember that it is about obedience and openness.