Hospitality–More Than a Tradition
Disclaimer: For many of us, COVID-19 has drastically changed “normal” hospitality. We can all struggle to know how to use our homes to minister to others. I would encourage you all to not lay aside hospitality but instead seek for new, creative ideas to use your home to reach out to those around you. Perhaps you can focus on small groups or allow someone to stay with you if their roommate is in quarantine. May God guide each of you as you search for ways to use your home to minister to others and share the gospel during this time!
A Quick Story
It was Thanksgiving Day 2019 and people were starting to gather at our house, beginning with one surprise guest showing up about two hours earlier than expected. As people continued to arrive, they brought laughter and dish after dish of food. The table was laden with traditional American mashed potatoes, turkey, and pie. However, it also featured Chinese noodles, Central American bread, and an assortment of other dishes. We loaded our plates and filled the house, sitting on the floor, in the hallway, or on the couches. English, Mandarin, and Spanish were heard in conversations around the room. After we were all stuffed, we brought out games and taught our friends how to play Uno and they taught us how to play a version of Old Maid. Even if they could not always understand the other person, people were still smiling as they talked. Laughter and voices filled the house.
This story makes me smile because I remember the friendships that were made and the cultural lessons we learned. We Christians have incredible opportunities to use our homes to share the gospel. Why should we open our houses to people? “…[W]e do it because the purpose of radically ordinary hospitality is to take the hand of a stranger and put it in the hand of the Savior, to bridge hostile worlds, and to add to the family of God” (Butterfield, 34). Hospitality is not only something commanded in Scripture but also a practice that brings rewards and fulfillment.
While there are different aspects of hospitality, I am viewing it simply as a worldview that seeks to serve others continually with open arms. Even more specifically, hospitality often involves using our homes as a way to tell the world about Jesus. I realize that some people may have legitimate reasons why they cannot host people, but one does not need a big, perfect house to be hospitable. My family has a tiny city apartment, yet we have hosted 25+ people in our home for a meal. Of course, not everyone has to fit around a table—we had people sitting on floors, around the table, in the hallway, on the living room floor, and occasionally just standing around the kitchen. Another reason people may balk at the idea of hospitality is because we want our homes to be our havens, a place where we can relax at the end of the day. I echo the response of pastors Willis and Clements: “[Our homes] are a grace gift from God, meant to rejuvenate and restore our bodies and souls through rest and Sabbath. As with any desire we make too ultimate, however, if we place personal relaxation and refuge at the forefront of our home’s purpose, we lose God-given opportunities to practice gospel-driven intentionality” (Clements and Willis, 33).
A Verse or Two
The Bible contains multiple lessons about hospitality, several of which can be found in the story of the Israelites. Even though the Israelites kept sinning and turning away from God, He continued to offer them a relationship with Him. God was giving us an example of how we can respond to those who keep rejecting us and what we offer them. Not only did God demonstrate hospitality with the Israelites by welcoming them back to Himself, but he repeatedly exhorts the children of Israel to care for the strangers among them, because they used to be strangers in Egypt (Deut. 10:19).
The thread continues in the New Testament with commands to open our homes, not only to our fellow believers but also to strangers and unbelievers. Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels” (NKJV). Here, the writer of Hebrews is reminding Christians to open their homes to people, and especially strangers, because we never know who they might be. Jesus said of those who will be welcomed into the kingdom of heaven, “For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in…” (Matthew 25:35). How can we take people into our homes and give them food and water without using our homes to serve others? The Apostle Peter said, “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9). Following this command will lead us to open our homes to our fellow Christians without complaint. This verse convicted me recently as I saw myself grumbling. My family hosts the church youth every other Sunday night in our house, but I had started to complain because those Sunday nights were no longer spent quietly with my family and popcorn. However, the Holy Spirit reminded me that the family of God should willingly open their homes to one another as a way of showing love to each other (1 Peter 4:8).
Living in a city has shown me the value of hospitality. People connect over food, and having someone over for a meal can open doors to spiritual conversations. We need to evangelize on the streets – I am not trying to take away from the importance of that. But I believe that when we host people in our homes, questions about God can enter the conversation naturally. When people are comfortable in your home, they are more open to share their stories or ask questions about your life, giving you opportunities to share your own testimony or even the plan of salvation. Quoting Willis and Clements, “[w]hen we invite into our homes and lives those who are far from God, essentially, we say to them, God loves you and he hasn’t given up on you. We present that message with our actions before we even get a chance to share the gospel with our words” (Clements and Willis, 42).
A Concluding Thought
When you open your homes to others, the people you meet can be fascinating and can strengthen your own faith. We have had a guest tell stories of how he and his fellow high schoolers fought a rival school. Another guest has shared his testimony of how God met him in prison. And still another person we hosted described for us what life was like in her village in China. These interactions broaden your worldview and leave you spiritually filled even though you might be physically tired. Fellow believers, let us open our doors to those who do not have someone to welcome them after a hard day of work, to those who have no family in this country, to those who are overlooked in church, to those who are struggling with college or debts or relationships, to those who just need a place to sleep for the night, and to those sitting next to you in church. Though it might seem small, showing hospitality is truly a way to spread the gospel and make disciples.
In my next article, I plan to give some practical tips about how we can show hospitality in our homes and lives.
Butterfield, Rosaria Champagne. The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World. Crossway, 2018.
Willis, Dustin, and Brandon Clements. The Simplest Way to Change the World: Biblical Hospitality as a Way of Life. Moody Publishers, Chicago: 2017.