I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. We host a weekly open house supper for neighbors, folks from church, people from S’s office and others and while we enjoy it does really shape our week to a large extent. We’ve been talking occasionally about whether we should change the day, whether we should keep doing it every week and so on… I thought it would be a good exercise to go back to foundational things and look at why we should engage in hospitality in the first place.
- Hospitality is commanded. Multiple times and in multiple places throughout Scripture. “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 13:2 (ESV) In fact one of the criteria for widows being supported by the church is that the woman would have practiced hospitality to strangers (1 Timothy 5:10). We can surmise from the many references that hospitality is important and should not be neglected or ignored.
- Hospitality is a blessing. We often receive much more than we give when feed those around us. I think in particular of Abraham who offered hospitality to three strangers and received in return not only the promise of the blessing of a son but also the opportunity to save his nephew’s life!
- Hospitality is a means of ministering grace and being ministered to. There are many times that I/we offer someone a meal, cup of tea, or place to sleep and are ourselves blessed in that friendship and conversation. God takes many opportunities to minister grace to and through us; we need to be careful not to neglect means that he uses.
- Hospitality combines the physical and the spiritual in a way that serves as a powerful reminder that we are not primarily one or the other. We are often confused about our very nature. We forget that we have a spirit that needs feeding or we neglect the body’s needs in order to (we think)more fully serve the spiritual. God made us with both and we need to respect and minister to both. Food for the body can also be food for the soul.
- Hospitality makes it possible to involve even little children in ministering to and blessing others. There are many, many ways in which children can be involved. They can help cook, clean, decorate and make people welcome from a very young age. Feet-on-the-ground-love cannot be learned too young.
- Hospitality forces us to be consistent in our practice and speech. If meals are usually hectic affairs, that will show when we have company. If the home is normally peaceful that will also show. Opening our home once a week demands a tremendous amount of consistency in our daily and weekly schedule. If I allow it to be this is very good for me.
- Hospitality takes us beyond our comfort zone and gives opportunity for growth. Sometimes the people who come and the way the conversation goes isn’t what I would choose. Sometimes the children and I have had a rough day, or S is mentally exhausted from programming. These are opportunities for growth in grace and in resting in Christ. We need them if we are to be all that we were created to be.
- Hospitality gives an opportunity to express both creativity and the beauty of the Creator’s provision in taste, sight and smell. There is so much that can be done simply yet beautifully in this area. Whether we are talking about the actual cooking, the setting of the table, or just understanding that a particular person needs a little more attention and care, we have many opportunities in the category of hospitality to express the beauty and creativity that we see around us.
- Hospitality supports the formation and growth of community. For communities to grow and develop we must spend time in each others presence. When we only gather infrequently and in formal settings we cannot get to know one another, and without knowledge we cannot love and serve each other in community. The practice of hospitality gives us the opportunity to know and be known by one another.
- Hospitality is a kind of image bearing and we are image bearers and need to practice being accurate in our portrayal of the original. God is the great hospitaller. He is preparing places and feasts for us in his heavenly kingdom and he bids us come to his table often. What more can we do then but follow where he leads?