True Hospitality [Advent: Day 15]
Last night we hosted a Christmas party in our home for the amazing people that my husband Chad works with. We shared a meal, chatted about life, and of course exchanged gifts over a friendly game we call the White Elephant gift exchange. Does anybody know why we call it the White Elephant anyway? Strange.
There are fewer things that I enjoy more than setting a table, cooking a meal and inviting people into our home. I am passionate about creating welcoming environments, both to dwell in and to feel welcome in. I treasure those times around the table. The conversations always seem a little more meaningful and the walls that may otherwise exist seem to come crumbling down.
As I sit here this morning though, I got to thinking what the Bible says about hospitality and how we are called to be hospitable. Here are a few verses I found.
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2
“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” 1 Peter 4:9
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24
By just these standing verses alone, I would agree that the idea of hospitality that I have is in alignment with some of the commands in the Bible. I woke early in the morning to begin preparing the food and our home without grumbling, check! We had a few people I had never met before in our home (aka, strangers), check! And I would say I worked heartily in my preparations, check! So far, I would say I’m doing pretty well.
But when I started thinking about this a little more, I started asking myself some questions. Do I do these things with the pure heart of serving others, or am I seeking to impress? Does hospitality even require that people be in my home or can I love strangers and be hospitable anywhere? Do I literally love strangers and do it well? Or does it have to be on my terms?
If I’m being honest, my overall grade against these claims may not be as well as I think they are. If I’m being honest, the business of life at times makes me miss opportunities to literally love strangers a good majority of the time. I mean, I consider myself a kind person, but is that only when I have time to be bothered? You get the internal dialogue here. And I bet you have had something similar at some point.
I looked into this idea of Biblical hospitality a little further and found verses like this.
“He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” Luke 14:12-14
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Romans 12:20
I love the Bible. It is the living, breathing Word of God and when we allow it, it can challenge us, convict us, encourage us and ultimately shape us. When I look at these verses above, I begin to think that what I have seen as hospitality may just be entertaining. And I’m not saying that is a bad thing. What I am saying is that we are called to be hospitable people and I this is a challenging redefinition of that term for me.
This last February, I attended a conference called the IF:Gathering. Jen Hatmaker is an author and speaker and also pastors a church in Austin, TX with her husband called Austin New Church. I believe these people model true hospitality well. Even to this day in December I am often convicted with a couple of challenges she had for us. The first is that she said that we are great at blessing the already blessed. Gut check one. And the second was when she challenged us that if we love mercy for ourselves, we must love it for everybody else. Gut check two.
I believe her challenges line up with the Bible’s definition of hospitality. That we are called not just to entertain, but to actually love strangers of any shape, form, background or baggage. After all, it is what we would wish for ourselves right?
So I will leave you with this challenge, as I challenge myself. I believe we should be especially mindful of this during the Christmas season. I love my comforts just as much as the next person, but lets go about this week being truly mindful of strangers, of anybody around us. Let’s immerse ourselves in somebody else’s story, being mindful that we should approach them with mercy, grace and understanding. Lets get out of our comfort zone. Lets think about being hospitable at any place and time. Lets be truly hospitable.