When someone mentions hospitality, what do you envision? A 50’s housewife with chocolate chip cookies ready as you come in the door, pot roast in the oven, and a smile as sweet as Southern tea? I know when I’m told to practice hospitality, I usually think I need to bake a cake or clean my house before people come over. And with the ever-rising popularity of cooking, interior design, DIY projects, and entertaining sites like Picky-Palate, The Pioneer Woman, and Everyday Occasions, it seems as though people have the tools to be more hospitable than ever.
Why, then, do we still feel unwelcome when we go to church? Why can we have known some friends for years but can count on one hand how many times we’ve been invited to their home? Why does the Church seem less loved now than ever?
What is True Hospitality?
While baking, opening your home to friends and neighbors, and being genuinely kind is part of practicing hospitality, the heart and purpose seems to have been lost in the past few generations of church-goers. Hospitality is not just feeding your family and providing a comfortable home for people to hang out, it’s all about loving others.
Every time hospitality is mentioned in the New Testament the preceding verses were talking about loving the Church body and loving those around you, believer in Christ or not. True hospitality is an attitude and action of genuine care for the needs of others. It is putting the needs of others above your own and, ultimately, showing love (Phil.2:3-5).
Contribute to the needs of the saints andseek to show hospitality. Rom.12:13
Letbrotherly love continue.Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,…Heb. 13:1-2
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, sincelove covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another,as good stewards of God’s varied grace. 1 Pet. 4:8-10
Since hospitality is one of my spiritual gifts and I happen to love to cook for people, throw parties, and have a cute home, I tend to make hospitality about me and about impressing others (I’m also very competitive – so it can be a bad combo!) This, in turn, can change my spiritual gift into a stressful, joyless task. Instead of seeing it as a way to show God’s grace and an honor to be able to serve, I make it about me, which usually cues the grumbling and anxiousness to make its entrance. I think Martha and I just might be related. Just like me, she desired everything to be so wonderful, so put together, that she forgot that life is about Christ, loving him, and loving others (Lk. 10:38-42). She, as I have done many times, forgot the joy of loving and serving others.
Hospitality doesn’t have to be a difficult. It’s simply being aware of the needs of others and, joyfully, taking action to meet those needs, whether they’re emotional, physical, or spiritual. Hospitality is really just about loving Christ and loving the people He created.
How Can You Show Hospitality?
While hospitality seems to come more naturally for most women, since we tend to have more nurturing and others-aware personalities, hospitality is not just for women. Men are told to have a hospitable spirit too. In 1 Tim. 3:2-5 and Titus 1:8, the characteristics of an elder or overseer in the church are listed. He must not only be above reproach and able to manage his household with dignity; among many things, he MUST also be hospitable. I had never really seen men display a hospitable attitude until this past year. Now, I see them at my church welcoming everyone with a sincere smile, hello, and “so glad you came today” so everyone feels welcome and at home. I see it in my Hebrew professor when he takes time out of his busy schedule to genuinely ask me how I’m doing. I see it in my husband when he tells others about Christ and invites them to our home for dinner.
In modern times, the term hospitality has been deemed all about entertaining in the home but it’s more than that. Women can be hospitable by just serving their fellow church members or a stranger at Wal-Mart. Is there a woman you know who is about to have a baby? Take her dinner to take some stress off her and her family. Do you know a church member who doesn’t come to church anymore because she doesn’t have a car? Offer to give her a ride. Is one of the ladies in your Bible study going through a hard time? Ask her how she’s doing and just listen to her. Is the woman behind you in the checkout line looking stressed and in a hurry? Let her go before you and ask if she’s ok. You’d be surprised at the relief, openness, and tenderness that comes when you just show people the love of Christ. You never know how one simple act of kindness can affect a person.
You can bake as much as you like, clean your house till there’s not a speck of dust, decorate and organize your home so creatively that it should be featured in Martha Stewart magazine… but if you have not love, then it’s all a waste (1 Cor.13:2-3). The reason God wants His children to show hospitality is because it shows the love of Christ! To be truly hospitable, you must give of yourself to others, without complaint. To be truly hospitable, you must love your neighbor as yourself and desire to meet their needs above your own. To be truly hospitable, you must LOVE others as Christ loves you.