It is easy to see opportunities to give this holiday season. Most people are focused on giving or donating and sometimes incorporate it into their Christmas gifts.
I want to challenge you to think beyond giving as an individual, or as a family. I want to challenge you to show hospitality as a church this season.
What does that mean?
I’ve talked before on how we can be preparing our heart for hospitality. We often think of hospitality as preparing the Pinterest-perfect meal and inviting friends over, but the true meaning of hospitality is showing love to strangers. Sometimes hospitality is simply a love that meets and exceeds real needs with unusual and extraordinary kindness. You may be asking some questions:
How do I find strangers to show love to? How do I figure out what real needs people have – especially if they are strangers? How am I supposed to help specifically?
As I was thinking through these questions, I took a look at Romans 12 – which is such a rich passage. I don’t have time to delve into it too deeply right now, but I want to bring out a few points about hospitality and the church.
- Work as a body – Verses 4, 6: “we are many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function…” “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly.”
Working within the context of a community of believers, the church, the “body of Christ”, we are able to complement each other. You have skills, life experiences, and expertise that no one else has. Someone else within in the church may have met someone you could really connect with. And visa versa – you may have met someone that you could bring to church with whom someone else could really connect with because they have different skills and life experiences than you.
- Brotherly love – Verses 9-10, 13: “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love….” “contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.”
We are to be hospitable and contribute to others’ needs, without hypocrisy. AND not only are we to meet the needs of strangers, but we are also to meet the needs within our own body of believers. We can do that as we KNOW the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ, as we spend time with them.
- Be kind to your enemy – Verses 14, 20-21: “Bless those who persecute you….” “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing so you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
This is tough to do! But it’s even harder to do on our own. With the support of our brothers and sisters in Christ around us, and perhaps even them showing love to our enemies, then we can allow God to work through us and our circumstances.
Through these these verses, I saw that the support of brothers and sisters in Christ is needed when showing hospitality. They don’t have to be involved in every act of hospitality you show, but the greater context of the church working together is how God intended it.
So, the heart of hospitality is finding people in the margins and bringing them in. This first step of hospitality is obedience.
The heart of hospitality is finding people in the margins and bringing them in. Click To Tweet
Finding people: How might you do this?
First, you can look to your spheres of influence: your neighborhood, coworkers, parents of your kids’ friends, clubs you are part of, etc. As you are talking with them, really listen to them. Invite them over to your house for dinner. You may learn of a need that one of them, or a friend has. And perhaps you or someone in your church can meet that need.
- The ladies of my church network got together to make gift tags and cookie trays to pass around to the neighborhoods around our churches.
- We are going to make a regular habit of having people over to our home for dinner (or just dessert and games). We want to get to know people outside our “comfort bubble.”
Second, look at what your church is already doing and be active. Our church is a supporting church for Family Promise, which is an organization that provides safe shelter, food, counseling, and training for homeless children and their families. I love that Family Promise specifically works in partnership with local communities of faith – it’s the churches that house the families overnight and provide dinners for them for a week each rotation. The program is designed to address the needs of families and equip them to move into permanent housing as quickly as possible.
- Our church is going to be supporting the families of Family Promise for the week of Christmas. My family is going to be bringing a meal one of the nights and eating with the families.
Need Help Brainstorming How you can Help others around you?
Here’s a list of things either you can tackle as a family, or with your church!
- If you know of someone who is struggling financially, figure out what products they use regularly and collect some of those products to give them. (soap, laundry detergents, etc.)
- Babysit for free so a couple can go out to dinner.
- Host a play date that includes a Christmas activity or Bible lessons for the kids
- Write cards or emails of encouragement.
- Open your home to guests.
- Make meals for a family going through a hardship, or a new mom.
- If you are going shopping, call up someone a young mom and see if you can pick up anything for her.
- Think of an elderly neighbor that might want company (and a small homemade good or meal).
- Spend a night in with a group of women (instead of going out) and cook a few freezer meals for a local family in need and bring them the next day.
- Go to a Senior center with your church and sing Christmas carols.
- Organize a clothing drive and donate it to a local shelter.
- Walk a neighbor’s dog.
- Teach someone a new skill (computers, reading, setting up a blog, etc.)
- Bake cookies and treats for your local civil servants like police officers and firefighters.
- Have you ever heard about Blessings in a backpack? Maybe that’s something your church can take on to give throughout the year!!
But finding people to show hospitality to is only the first step. Because once we find them, we are to invite them in, and then we are called to love them.
Once we find them, we are to invite them in, and then we are called to love them. Click To Tweet
This is the hardest part of hospitality – loving them. It’s possible to go through all the motions, but stop short of loving people and rejoicing over them. That’s what I’m going to talk about next time!
Meanwhile, for this season, think about how we, as the church, can show God’s love by working together. Let us be working as a church to show hospitality.