Hospitality is defined as “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.”
Note that there’s nothing about having every speck of dust wiped away from all visible surfaces.
I struggle with hospitality. It’s not that I don’t want to welcome people into my home. I do. Growing up, my parents welcomed all kinds of strays and vagabonds (i.e., my loud and obnoxious friends) without a thought. They knew that a lot of those friends of mine didn’t have safe, loving homes to go to. They knew that everyone needs a space where they feel comfortable and valued. They knew that offering even the simplest of meals can have a positive impact.
The message is there, in my heart. It’s the execution that I get tripped up on.
My couches are shabby, the fabric pilled and marred by little doggy claws. The person who owned our home previously never bothered to take care of the carpet, so, no matter how many times I vacuum or steam-clean, it looks terrible. There’s a sun-burned spot on the linoleum in the kitchen. Our home is small, so seating more than 4 or 5 people at a time becomes an issue. And, as we enter into summer in my area, the lack of air conditioning definitely becomes an issue.
My focus hones in on the environment, to the exclusion of all else.
What Does God Say?
Scripture has much to say about hospitality. Like the definition above, God’s thoughts on the matter don’t say anything about having the “perfect” house. Instead, we read –
“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” – 1 Peter 4:9
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” – Hebrews 13:2
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” – Galatians 5:13
“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” – Matthew 25:40
The Right Sight
Stewardship is important. We should work to take care of what God has given us. But hospitality is also stewardship; it is reaching out a hand of welcome and love to both friends and strangers. It’s taking care of the people God made. My couches might be shabby, but they are comfortable. My floor might look dirty, but it’s a great staging space for games, blankets and pillows. Who but me cares about a sun-burned spot on the linoleum? And people can always squeeze in and make room for more.
Hospitality is less about environment, more about people. Everyone needs to feel the embrace of friendliness.
I don’t know what your home looks like. Maybe you have some of the same hang-ups about it that I do. Maybe you let the lack of perfection keep you from inviting people in. Let’s remember that it’s not about the space. It’s about the love, about people, about God. There may be someone hurting, someone lonely, someone in need, and you or I have just the spot for them. Let’s not ignore them just because our dishes are mismatched or we don’t have the latest and greatest decorating accessories.
Let’s also remember that there are so many times when we ourselves need hospitality. We need to be loved on. In those moments, the environment doesn’t matter. We’re not checking the price tag on the furniture or inspecting the china. We just want to know that we’re safe and accepted.
So let’s reach out and do for others what we know we need ourselves.