When we think of the word hospitality, often we think of Pinterest-perfect tablescapes and decor, a cozy stress-free environment, or impeccably clean rooms. But that’s not it. There is so much more to hospitality than meets the eye. It’s the matter of the heart, first and foremost.
Over the next 4 weeks, I’m going to be looking into hospitality: preparing the heart for hospitality, preparing the home for hospitality, welcoming your neighbor in, and continuing without burnout.
Preparing the Heart for Hospitality
To get at the heart for hospitality, let’s see what God intended when the Bible uses the word.
Hospitality is listed in Romans 12, when Paul is talking about how we live out our Christian walk. In verses 1-2, Paul is appealing, pleading to us as believers to present our bodies as living sacrifices, which is our spiritual service of worship. He wants us to Live out our faith by what we do.
How are we to do that?
This transformation comes about by the renewing of our minds (This is such meaty content I may have to write another blog post about it at another time). But to live out our faith, it first requires that we change the way we think about things (not as the world thinks, but as God intended). Then, with transformed minds, Paul asks us to live out our faith in community. Verses 3-8 talks about spiritual gifts we may have to use in the body of Christ. Then, he gives these commands:
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.”
But the Bible goes even further than that.
Remember “the list” for widows I mentioned the other day, from 1 Timothy 5? Well, a widow is to be on the list if she has shown hospitality to strangers.
1 Timothy 5:10, “having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers…”
God’s original design for hospitality is extending ourselves in love to strangers. The Greek word for hospitality is philoxenos. Phileo meaning “brotherly love,” and xenos for “strangers.”
We see Jesus giving us an example in what he does: sitting around a table with the shunned and the sinners in Matthew 9. In John 4, he shares well water and conversation with a woman everyone else ignored. Finally, in Matthew 19, He invites—not just tolerates—the presence of little children and the beautiful distraction they bring. These are just a few examples.
In Jesus we see that hospitality begins in the heart.
It’s a shame when we box up hospitality in entertaining and Pinterest-perfect homes. Hospitality is embracing a posture of the heart to welcome even—and especially— those we don’t know.
Love for strangers is inviting a new neighbor over for a casual coffee while you unload the dishwasher. It’s taking out the trash for a neighbor (or teaching your toddler to do it. 🙂 Or having a neighbor that’s lonely (because her own kids are grown and gone) over to play with your kids. It’s knowing the names of the people who bag your groceries. It’s offering encouragement to the young mom in tears with a screaming toddler in the middle of Target. Maybe it’s even inviting her to lunch after she confesses she has no one to help her.
We extend love first. First love, then we get to know others.
This is sometimes going to be very hard. To have love for others, especially strangers. This Love will not come from ourselves. It will only be as we pray that Christ’s love and example for others will show through in our actions. He will give us more strength to love others when we would falter.
Going back to Romans 12:10,
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…” Let me be honest. I am often neglectful when it comes to others needs. I tend to be a selfish person – think of my needs and the needs of my family first. That is not a bad quality, but when it stops there, when I don’t think of others outside my family very often – that is when I’m not being a vessel for God. That is when I’m not showing hospitality.
“Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.”
How can I do that? How can you do that this week?