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“Hospitality isn’t about your house. It’s about your heart.” I saw this quote a long time ago but don’t remember the source so, unfortunately, I can’t give credit where credit is due.
It means that your house doesn’t have to be perfect. I get that. But, this time, it struck me that hospitality isn’t about your house at all. Hospitality can happen anywhere. Unlike entertaining, hospitality is guest-centered. Hospitality is showing love. To believers, unbelievers, strangers, friends, and people who aren’t like us.
I’m a micro-organized, macro-disorganized, Bohemian gypsy. I love staying home and I crave a tidy house, but I am rarely here. I fight, and continually lose, against stacks on the dining table, clutter all around, and laundry mountains. My husband works out of town and gets home when normal, non-Bohemian people are going to bed.
Years ago, when our life was less scattered and he worked in town, we often had people over for dinner. Nothing fancy, just a meal with us and five little Hattaways making life crazy. As life and logistics changed, that happened less and less. It’s been a source of grief and guilt because we thought that if we weren’t having people over for dinner, we weren’t offering hospitality.
Christian hospitality is commanded in New Testament scripture. It’s not a suggestion. It is a duty and a virtue to be practiced often and joyfully.
Peter says to show hospitality to one another without grumbling, (I Peter 4:9).
“We are not to begrudge the time, energy, and privacy used for hospitality, any more than we are to begrudge the things we give away when we were cautioned that ‘God loveth a cheerful giver,’”’ says Edith Schaeffer, wife of Francis Schaeffer and author of L’Abri.
Kevin DeYoung says, “Good hospital-ity is making your home a hospital. The idea is that friends and family and the wounded and weary people come to your home and leave helped and refreshed.” Hospitality isn’t a unique spiritual gift. It’s a way to use your spiritual gifts.
In a season of life when you can’t make your home a hospital, there are still unconventional ways to cultivate relationships and love on people.
I found that my love for travel is a way to offer hospitality. I drive people to appointments, take them to the airport and often, just go on an adventure. At this stage in my life, I can love on people by meeting their needs practically, spiritually, and emotionally in my car. It’s my mobile hospital. It’s where discussions happen because we have time together. It’s a way to show them they’re cared for.
There are endless ways to offer hospitality outside your home:
Practicing hospitality takes time. But if you’re in Christ, “ Your life is not your own, neither is your time,” says Rosaria Butterfield, author of The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World.
Rosaria was a practicing lesbian, on tenure track at Syracuse University when she was invited to have dinner with a pastor and his wife. Rosaria was reading the Bible for a research project she was working on. She was a user who looked at the dinner invitations as free research material. A relationship was formed, however, and the pastor and his wife invested years into loving Rosaria, eventually sharing the gospel. They told her that they didn’t agree with her lifestyle but they loved her as she was. God changed her heart and she came to faith in Christ, left her lover, her job, and lost her friends. She is now married to a reformed pastor and has children. She’s zealous about hospitality because she knows first-hand what it can do.
We must show up in the life of unbelievers. But, don’t make people projects, Rosaria says. “Love them, welcome them, listen to them.” Pray for wisdom and discernment about when to share the gospel, and trust the Holy Spirit to work through your actions.
Hospitality works to change strangers into neighbors. In good time, the Lord may change hearts and transform neighbors into brothers and sisters. It’s all about the heart.