Hospitality – this unfamiliar godly principle is spoken of in Romans, 1 Timothy, Titus and finally in 1 Peter 4:9. In Romans, Timothy and Titus, the direct command to “be given to showing hospitality” is given for all church leaders but according to Peter, it is considered a must for everyone.
For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch to prayer. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 1 Peter 4:6-9
We tend to think of hospitality as the challenging and often overwhelming role of being a host. Being a host and being hospitable are two different things. Being hospitable is a virtue that American culture is fast losing. Fast paced life styles, constant business and agendas waiting to be met, are shutting down this avenue of relations and styling a life of external indifference and internal recluse. Hospitality is played out in an often business-like or premeditated form. Hospitality in American culture may mean inviting friends to our house for occasional meals, parties or socializing in some public event. To the American mentality, hospitality means lots extra work, salary depletion and time lost from our jobs, hobbies, sports and personal time.
As Christians, I think it is very necessary that we rethink and become re-accustomed to hospitality the way God wants us to see it, and begin practicing the fervent charity and ungrudging hospitality. I have heard 1 Peter 4:9 described in this way: “Hospitality is a gift just as the gift of evangelism. If God has given you the gift of hospitality then you should minister the same.” This is definitely the wrong way to look at it. The Lord is telling us:
… as every man hath received the gift … of the manifold grace of God … even so minister the same[manifold grace of God] one to another, as good stewards …
To use the excuse that you just weren’t called to show hospitality, is like giving God’s own promise of grace an edge. It’s like saying “maybe I wasn’t called to receive the grace of God”. We all know that His grace is for everyone who believes on Him.
Hospitality in its essence is – making yourself available to others. Hospitality is not just inviting people to your house for a meal, a Sunday afternoon visit or giving up your bed, but includes being there for someone who needs to talk, being willing to pray with someone, allowing someone into your heart, going out of your way to befriend, noticing needs and meeting them as the opportunity arises. Practicing to make yourself available to others is something that you can do no matter what your situation may be.
For some single young ladies, the idea of practicing hospitality by inviting someone to your home for a meal may be more of a liberty than she is permitted by her parents. However, there are so many other things you can do if your heart is to learn this virtue. I will attempt to share a few of my own experiences and some practical advice in this direction. I promise you, you will find hospitality an addictive joy and a virtue that will bring you so much fulfillment.
The first thing I would like to say is, learn hospitality with your family. Is it difficult to reach out to your family members and give of yourself to them? Think of ways to surprise, bless and serve your dad and the male figures in your life. This may seem very strange but is a crucial step in learning to serve.
Being a servant to your mom is very good but learning to attend to the needs of your man is very important, first of all as a daughter and, later in life, as a wife. There is no way that you can fully prepare yourself for the life you will live after you are married but there is no doubt that it will be easy for you to be a sweet, collected wife and mother, if you learn the art of hospitality with your own family. Where better place to learn than working alongside your mother and sisters to continuously surprise your father and brothers with tasty meals, cold drinks of water, a bright smile and warm loving atmosphere?
Be an eager beaver in including other people in your life … this is where hospitality takes place. It may be by building relationships within your immediate family but it also goes so much farther by including your friends, relatives and neighbors, along with the host of people who continuously flow in and out of your life.
I was raised with the mentality that hospitality is work – lots of extra work – and a way to impress the guests with food and a good time. Our house is rather small and my parents weren’t always of great means. It was therefore a huge family affair and we as a family made huge efforts to occasionally invite a family of our friends over for a meal or a Sunday afternoon. My parents were raised in a culture where guests were treated as royalty, food was abundant and having the house spotlessly clean was a necessity.
Even now at times I instinctively think of Victorian hospitality as idealistic. Unfortunately we no longer have maids and butlers to do all our work, therefore it’s us doing the frantic hurrying about, trying to be both maid and hostess. I know that this is one of the biggest reasons that I would ever find hospitality overwhelming. We are setting our standards by standards that are no longer normal. Rather than worrying so much about the impression we are leaving, we should slow down and think of our guests as real, normal people and enjoy them!
I have visited many, many homes and there is one that stands out to me above all the others. I have never felt more at home anywhere, as I could feel there. I think I could count on one hand the times that I entered that home and yet it seemed that when I walked in the door it was as though I was arriving home. It wasn’t that the family was messy or, on the other extreme, spotless. It wasn’t that they treated me like a princess, nor did they make me feel like a nobody – when I was there they made me feel like one of them. It wasn’t that I was a lifelong friend of the family; they just knew how to give what they had and they were themselves. I think that the greatest way to show hospitality is being real and giving the gift of yourself to the one whom you are trying to serve.
Usually, a false front is more obvious to the guest than to the one putting it on. People who put on fronts somehow tend to convince themselves that they really are the people they are pretending to be. Uncomfortable guests are most likely uncomfortable because you are uncomfortable.
Once I was in a home of a family of fronts. Everyone was as stiff as cardboard and although I was enjoying spending time with my dear friend, the meal with the whole family was awful. I never want to relive the experience. The food was passed in the most dignified way. Everyone was polite and quiet and well mannered. Suddenly the “perfect” family meal was bashed out and real people began to sob through sodden teary shells. What I thought was a stiff, polite, nice family, had turned into a bowl of seething anger and bitter tears, selfishness and impatience.
One of the little girls was sent away from the table for a slight misdemeanor (that I hadn’t even noticed because it happens all the time at our house too). She had embarrassed her family in front of me and was being punished. I asked my friend later if such actions were consistent and she said, “No, I’m sure Dad just didn’t want to embarrass you.” I said to my dear friend, “I was more embarrassed by what happened. Your poor sister can hardly bare to face me again.” Not only was the family uncomfortable with me as a guest but now I knew it too.
When you have guests, be yourself. Guests love seeing YOU and they will love you just like you are normally, just as your family loves you for who you are. At our house, guests are becoming highlights and the simplest pleasures of all.
Check back next week for the sequel – Practical Tips For Being Hospitable
(This article was originally published in Volume1 Number4/Winter 2008. You can request the entire issue in PDF on this page.)
Possibly sharing at: The Modest Mom, Mama Moments, The Art of Home-Making Monday, Titus 2 Tuesday, Titus 2sdays, Roses Of Inspiration, So Much At Home, A Wise Woman, Raising Homemakers, A Little R&R, Coffee and Conversation, Hearts for Home, Growing in Grace, Imparting Grace, SHINE Blog Hop, Grace and Truth, Fellowship Fridays, The Homemaking Party.