Hospitality can change the world. An open home, filled with open hearts, welcoming others as Christ has welcomed us, can influence the world around us in deep and abiding ways.
The Bible calls us to be hospitable, but we find it hard to do so. Peter’s words, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9) may as well be telling a child to eat their broccoli without making a face. We grumble because the house isn’t perfect, we’re not a good cook, we’re too tired from work, our favorite TV shows are on, we just need to relax, this is our family time. We have more reasons for not showing hospitality than for showing it. And that’s a problem, especially for Christians.
How many people have been in your home this year? Family doesn’t count. I’m not sure close friend should even count in this assessment. How many people you just met, or barely know, or are mere acquaintances with, have stepped over the threshold of your door to sit at your dining room table and eat with you?
But you’re not a good cook? Name your favorite place. I bet they do carry out, maybe even delivery. But my house isn’t big enough? When’s the last time you crammed into a crowded coffee shop and thought to yourself, “this is so cozy.” We think we need perfection before we do anything, and given the choice between perfect or nothing, with no other alternative, we will get nothing every time. If you have a room in your house with more than one space to sit, your house is ready for practicing hospitality.
My guess is that most people are invited over to someone’s house for dinner maybe once or twice a year. We are lonely people-no matter how many kids are crammed into the upstairs bedrooms. We are people longing for deeper connections, lasting friendships, meaningful conversation.
My wife and I believe that part of our calling as Christians is to practice hospitality with gospel intentionality. We call it gospel hospitality.
God has called us to help create and develop flourishing community among the church. Jesus did not come down to our world, walk up to Zacchaeus and say, “I must go to your house today” so that we would look at that and think, “You know, that’s just so wonderful of Jesus. I guess that’s just what God does, invites himself over.” Jesus shows us the way to hospitality by stooping down low to come and live among us. Jesus invites us not only into the throne room of heaven but into the heart of God himself. His definition of hospitality is not limited to dinner once a year, but communion at every moment.
I’m guessing we all need to be more radical with our hospitality. We need to open up our home. All the time, we should be thinking about who could we invite over, how could we serve, who needs encouragement and help, who is hurting that needs a listening ear, who is happy and needs someone to rejoice with, who is lonely and needs a friend, who is angry and needs justice or calming, who is confused and needs help, who needs a friend and how can we befriend them, how can we push the gospel community deeper and broader than it’s ever been?
This won’t be easy, which means we will be pushed into dependence on God. There have been many times that we’ve had a family coming for dinner and I didn’t want them to come. I was tired from work, or had something on my mind, and I had to pray that God would make me a good host. I didn’t want them coming, but they were coming anyway. Those nights always seem to be the most memorable. I need community more when I don’t want it than at any other time. And scheduling people to come over regularly ensures that I can’t hide in my own house whenever I want to.
Gospel hospitality means we live our lives in open repentance and open joy before the Lord, as he gives us grace. We push out towards people, not in towards ourselves. We read our Bible and love God with all our heart, strength, soul, and mind. We pray for others and with others. We never miss an opportunity to pray. We write letters with insight and wisdom because we’ve actually talked to the people who have come into our home. You’ll be amazed at what is shared over the dinner table: hopes, dreams, heartbreaks, setbacks, roadblocks, joys, jokes, and sorrows.
All this sounds too high but God is with us and he's given us this ministry. We can suppress it or we can embrace it. If we suppress it, we will be miserable and wonder why we’re lonely in a world with all these people. If we embrace it, we will be in awe of God all our life as we live together in the power of the Spirit. Our lives will be messier, but they’ll be happier. Remember Jesus Christ, “for the joy set before him he endured the cross.
Here are the questions to start asking: Who do we invite over? How many nights a week can we have an open home? Who can we befriend? How can we work hard to build gospel hospitality into our lives as far as the Lord will allow?
That means the books we buy should be bought with the intention of giving to others to help in their time of need. The food we buy should be bought with the intention of feeding lots of others - so we always have something in bulk we can make on a whim. The way we lay out our home creates as much comfortable space as possible for people to linger. We always have good coffee and good tea and good snacks. The fire is always ready in winter and the AC in summer. The yard is always cut and ready for a backyard hangout. The play room has toys for all ages-not just for kids.
We have a nice TV for football games and Olympics and March madness parties, not just to watch our movies and our shows. Our front door is unlocked and open. Our backdoor is how our kids’ friends get in the house. Our garage and attic houses the extra stuff we need for others, not just storage space for our old memories. Our floors are clean for babies and the bathroom is clean for guests. Our personal time and space are held lightly because we are selfish people by nature who only think we know what we want. Our hearts are wide open to people we don't even like. We buy cokes, and beer, and water bottles, and half and half, and milk, and juice, and paper plates, and cups, and plastic forks because we are always ready for company. We use all 8 chairs at the dining room table regularly. We don't stress over perfect meals or a perfect house or a perfect schedule but welcome all as Christ has welcomed us.
The nicest things we have will be broken. The cheapest things we have will become treasures because of the memories of all the people who used our old plates and mismatched cups and dearly held coffee mugs.
We cannot do any of this without it being a call from God and without the Spirit's help. We have both.
Let's always think, are we ready for company if they showed up tonight?
May God turn our home, and your home, into a refuge from the world for more than just you and your children, but for your neighborhood, your church family, your kids’ schoolmates, your coworkers, your city.