The Bible is quite clear : If we say we are Christians, we are to show hospitality.
Romans 12:13 “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”
1 Peter 4:9 “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
Matthew 25:34-46 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? …”
These are just a few Biblical commands to show hospitality. Examples of people showing hospitality in the Bible are numerous, and if you’d like to read a few accounts of these you can read them here.
Before we have this quick, one-sided chat about hospitality we need to remember that hospitality does not only refer to having someone over for a meal or a cup of coffee. Hospitality can be defined as “the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way”. Using the commands and examples in the Bible, hospitality could be defined as “love for strangers.” It’s a state of mind. It’s a behaviour and a quality as a disciple of Christ. For the purpose of this short post, I’d like to just talk about hospitality in terms of those times when we ask someone/or their family over for a meal.
Hospitality isn’t just to be shown to members of the household of faith. When we invite people into our world, we invite them to see a small glimpse of what Christianity might look like – warts, grumpy kids, moody teenagers and all. “Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.” Hebrews 13:1-3
Hospitality is seasonal.* Give yourself grace when life is just not compatible with having people over. We need to also give each other this same grace and not judge those who could be in this season of life.
Keep it easy and simple! It’s ok to ask your visitors to help with setting a table, cut up veggies etc. Sometimes these opportunities allow for great conversations. If you are having a family over for a meal, ask them to bring something to contribute. Ascertain before hand what food allergies your visitors might have. Use disposable plates, cups and cutlery!
Don’t do it all yourself. If you know that you will be having a big group over, offer your house as the venue and let the visitors do the catering.
Be clear about your boundaries. If you don’t want children running though your house, set that expectation early on. If you need to have some quiet time with your family on a Sunday, set the expectation that your guests leave at a time that suits you. It’s not being bossy. It’s being smart!
Hospitality does not have to be carried out at your home. How about at a park? Our family has been included in a few great park dinners at a local botanic garden. The organiser texts the day before, everyone brings a picnic dinner and a picnic rug (or chair), the kids enjoy the great outdoors and the adults get to enjoy fellowship. The best bit is that no one needs to get their house ready and no one needs to clean up afterward!
It’s not about how tidy your house is! Practicing hospitality is more about the personal connection than what your state your house is in. Don’t get too carried away with getting it all hunky-dory before hand.
This is kingdom work, so make sure you include your King! (No, not Elvis…) Make sure you pray together. This is one thing that we as a family are trying to get better at. Not just as word of prayer before or after a meal, but about what you discussed, what situation your visitors might find themselves in. Read from his Word. Ask what a favourite scripture is, or if it’s a pre-believer or new believer, read from the book of Mark.
Do you have anything to add? What do you find helpful when you are being hospitable?
*This point is one I heard at a talk and it is the key to accepting that your expectations might not match with your reality. It’s one that has helped me explain that time in our life when hospitality was the furthest thing from my mind… not because I didn’t want people in my house, but because I just had no energy to be hospitable to anyone other than my direct family as I was super busy with three little kids.