Lessons in Hospitality

I used to think hospitality was for Pinterest queens, super chefs, and people with a lot of free time, and because I meet exactly none of that criteria, I exempted myself from practicing purposeful hospitality. I’m learning it isn’t that complicated after all. In fact, it’s quite simple and very ordinary. While I generally despise assigning people to categories, if forced to put myself in one, it would be titled: “Simple and Ordinary.” As it turns out, this qualifies me perfectly to practice hospitality. 

At first glance, it’s easy to confuse entertainment with hospitality, and for years, they’ve been the same in my mind. Entertainment isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but its motivation is more about impressing, while hospitality is more about serving. Entertainment shows off, while hospitality welcomes in. Entertainment feels pressure to straighten, plan, and keep up appearances. Hospitality feels freedom to be vulnerable, transparent, and real. Entertainment follows an agenda. Hospitality listens. Entertainment is usually limited to an event, while hospitality is a way to live. 

Here are 3 things I’m learning about hospitality:

  1. Hospitality invites strangers. My social life pretty much became non-existent when my children arrived on the scene, so between work and my family, I don’t participate in many social activities. But when I do, I generally reserve those scarce moments for friends – people I know, love, and care about already. Which is a good thing. It’s a fun thing, a necessary thing, a life-giving thing, but it isn’t hospitality. Biblical hospitality literally means “love for strangers.” In other words, all of the people who are NOT on our go-to list. It moves us toward neighbors we don’t know, the barista who finally learned to spell our name, the homeless man on the corner we wave to every morning. 

  2. Hospitality invites people into the ordinary parts of our day. We eat. We drink coffee. We go places and do things. Hospitality opens the door wide and says, “Come with!” I’m learning it’s not about doing a 180, it’s more like a 10-degree course correction. It’s not that I need to add a whole bunch of new things to my list, I just need to do my current things a little differently. Our greatest asset isn’t our charm or personality (thank goodness), it’s our table. Inviting people to sit at our table invites them into our lives, into the truth of the Gospel, and into authentic community. Should I create margin in my life to better practice hospitality? Yes. Can I make major progress by inviting someone to join me for my daily coffee run or to our family’s weekly Wednesday night breakfast-for-dinner? YES.

  3. Hospitality calls us to invite others because we have been invited by God. It’s far too easy to forget we are the stranger, the naked, the poor, and the powerless. Somewhere in all of this, we’ve established hierarchies and become comfortable with pointing fingers. Our forgetfulness is as old as sin itself, and time and time again, verse after verse, God pleads with us to remember how He invites us in, how He provides and strengthens, and how He is our only hope for rescue. True hospitality – God’s hospitality – doesn’t come from a place of obligation or quiet grumbling; it overflows from deep gratitude and humility, knowing we invite others in because we have been invited in by God Himself. 

Jesus is absolutely interrupting my “normal” with all of this. Seeing God’s hospitality toward me, toward His people, is stirring up things in my heart I just wasn’t prepared for. There’s a temptation to just keep things how they’ve been – it’s easier and more comfortable. But when I read the story of Jesus, the theme of hospitality is undeniable. It was one of His primary strategies – a true picture of the Gospel – alive and in living color. And honestly, when I stop and sit in the quiet and get honest with myself and with God, I want to be like Jesus – in His hospitality, in His love, in His sacrifice. 

I simply cannot get away from this theme. Everywhere I go, I hear about hospitality. Almost everything I’ve picked up to read has pointed to hospitality. It all started this past spring when I started studying Gideon. In Judges 6, God sets a rescue plan in motion for His people and sends a messenger to tell Gideon he is going to lead the effort. This stranger appears out of nowhere and Gideon invites him in. The feast Gideon prepares is a true sacrifice – both in time and resources. There’s a long-standing famine in the land, and nobody has food to spare, yet Gideon prepares a FEAST. As he and his new stranger-friend sit down to a picnic under an oak tree, the dinner conversation changes his whole life. I can’t help but wonder… What if he ignored the stranger? What if he hadn’t been willing to share his time and resources? Nobody would have blamed him for not offering his food – desperate times call for desperate measures and everyone was fending for themselves! A few weeks ago David and I completely unplugged on a weekend trip to Brenham, TX. While there, I devoured Shauna Niequist’s newest book, Present Over Perfect, and guess what major theme I picked up on? You guessed it! Then there was my friend Randy’s sermon at our church last week. This blog article had been mostly written for weeks prior, though it almost perfectly mirrors his sermon. Does God speak to anyone else like this? Message. Received. 

So, what am I doing with all of this? My current goal is to find one simple way every week to practice intentional hospitality. Yesterday morning, my family moved from lounging in our living room to our front yard on a picnic blanket - we greeted every person who walked past our house and had at least two extended conversations with people we had never met. I was in sweatpants and t-shirt, no makeup, and was sporting bed-head I tried my best to tame two seconds before walking out the door. Can't get any more ordinary than that.

JOIN the conversation by commenting below: How does Biblical hospitality different from your previous definition of hospitality? What's one way you can practice Biblical hospitality during the upcoming holiday season?