I had a dream recently. Actually, it was more like a nightmare! It was so vivid, that I had to think carefully about whether it was real or not when I woke. I dreamt that people arrived unexpectedly for dinner – a large family of people! And that my husband had forgotten to tell me they were coming (you know it’s a dream because he’d never do that!), but here they were! And then he apologised and sent them away with some spag bol leftovers we had in the freezer! Gahhh!! Those poor dream people!!
All through the Bible we see examples of the power of hospitality – Jesus, Elijah, Elisha, Paul, and the disciples all experienced its warmth, sustenance and provision. But the story is much bigger than that of the people being hosted. We see countless examples of the HOST being blessed with encouragement, direction, company, supernatural provision, healing, children raised from the dead, and angels in their midst! All because they opened their doors, their hearts and their families to those around them.
Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship—a different kind of “sacrifice”—that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets. Hebrews 13:16 (Msg)
Sometimes this idea can be overwhelming though – what if my house is a bit untidy? Will people notice the dusty windowsills? What if my house is only small? But I’m not a very good cook, how will I feed them? We have all had similar thoughts from time to time!
A hospitable home does not need to be a large home. It just needs to be one that makes space for others. There might be an extra chair, or an extra tea cup, or an extra hug! When we ‘entertain’, we worry about what people think of our home, of us, our food… hospitality though is more concerned with our guests as people than any of that!
There is a fine line between detail that stresses us, and detail because we care about our guests. Offering a cup of tea or a glass of water, putting a dry hand towel in the bathroom, clearing those piles of newspapers from the couch to give people somewhere to sit… easy ways to show value and build connection. When we are more concerned with the needs, abilities, concerns and worries of other people, we are less focused on ‘self’ and external stuff.
Hospitality fosters community, and can even build the church! It’s not an event – that’s its cousin ‘entertaining’ again. It’s a way of being relationally intentional with the resources that we already have. Creating an environment where people can connect with others, where they are shown grace, love, welcome and acceptance. And while ‘entertaining’, often comes with the expectation of one day the favour being returned, hospitality is no strings attached, no expectation of return.
Hospitality can model what a family looks like, while entertaining can often hide that away. This means it can sometimes be ‘warts and all’! Crying babies, unsettled toddlers, baskets of laundry, busy work schedules… I would rather real and authentic any day over an impossible image of perfection – so unsustainable, right? When we are authentic, people are more likely to feel like part of the family themselves. Where entertaining places the weight of setting up and packing up (whether it’s after a cuppa, a meal, or a larger gathering such as an oikos family dinner) entirely on the hosts, hospitality begins to feel like family, where everyone pitches in – what a wonderful dynamic!
So, no pressure to perform girls! You don’t have to wait for the perfect season, to ‘have it all together’, or even have the ‘pinterest perfect’ house. Open up your homes and your hearts with confidence – you never know who you might have the pleasure and privilege of hosting!