Before we got married, my husband and I agreed we both wanted to use our home as a place of generosity and hospitality. This is still our desire, and we seek to have one person or more over at least once a week. However, as we started this routine, I realized my attitude about hospitality didn’t always line up with my theology.
Has this ever happened to you? You plan to have people over for a meal and an evening of conversation because you genuinely want to. But as it starts happening, you find yourself stressing over how much time you have between work and the guests’ arrival to get everything done. Not only does the meal need prepared, but the dishes from the day before need washed, the living room de-cluttered, and the bathroom cleaned. Do you find yourself desiring hospitality less, and worrying over logistics and appearances more?
Maybe you have, and maybe you haven’t. But that is where I’ve found myself. However, I don’t want our guests walking through the door to be greeted by a frazzled and anxious hostess. What needs to change?
What is Hospitality?
First, I need to revisit an accurate definition of hospitality. Perhaps we get more anxious about it when we make it into something it shouldn’t be. In The Gospel Comes with a House Key, Rosaria Butterfield gives this definition of hospitality: “Using your Christian home in a daily way that seeks to make strangers neighbors, and neighbors family of God” (p. 31). Hospitality is gospel-driven. It’s about having an open door and open conversations. It is providing a safe place for believers and non-believers to voice their fears, doubts, and vulnerabilities so that you can provide the comfort of Christ and lead them to His Cross. It is a tool for evangelism, as you use your home as a space to build relationships that support the gospel-driven words you speak. As Butterfield states, “your words can be only as strong as your relationships” (p. 40).
A Clear Goal Provides Clear Expectations
With the definition clearly defined, now I can refocus my goal and expectations for hospitality. Do we desire to have people over so they can enjoy a clean home and delicious meal (and perhaps so they can be impressed with our skills and hard work)? Or do we open our doors to strangers and friends so we can encourage them to turn around and knock on Jesus’s door? (See Luke 11:9-10)
When focused on the true goal of hospitality, my expectations will change. Even if there is a pile of dishes in the sink, backpacks and papers scattered on the living room couch, and a week’s worth of dust settled in the bathroom, hospitality can and should still happen. It’s ok if people see a lived-in home. We can invite someone into our space, showing ourselves genuine in our faith in Christ and in our love for them, all without having everything perfect. Hospitality is still happening.
I personally keep returning to the idea I quoted earlier: “Your words can be only as strong as your relationships.” Before, I stressed over the logistics of hospitality, feeling them as a burden. But now, there seems to be a deeper burden attached to hospitality – vulnerability. It’s easier to clean the bathroom and make spaghetti than to step into the messiness of someone else’s life, invite them into your messiness, and provide them with a haven of Biblical comfort and truth.
But relationships require this vulnerability. They require honesty, confessions, truth-talk, and constancy. Relationships require sacrifice and commitment. Why do it, then? So that through our sacrifice and commitment, our neighbors may understand the sacrifice and commitment of God in the gospel.
“God calls us to make sacrifices that hurt so that others can be served and maybe even saved. We are called to die. Nothing less” (p. 42).
Hospitality is gospel work. Hospitality is Christian work. Hospitality is worthy work.
Let’s get to work.