As a young bride, the concept of hospitality struck fear into my heart. Oh, I was familiar with the idea, but only as one who had been on the receiving end up until my marriage. I had wonderful memories as a child of a house filled with food, friends, and laughter. The sounds of music as my dad practiced with his band and the cool fall nights playing ‘No Bears Out Tonight’ (possibly a distinctly Canadian experience). I never, not even once, gave thought to the work and effort my mother put in to create a hospitable home.
When I had been a young single adult, living in a foreign country for awhile, I was loved and mentored by several women who invited me into their homes regularly. It was here that I discovered the beauty of fellowship around a table with a cup of coffee. Still, never once did it occur to me the sacrifice these women made to love me in this way, taking time away from their family and many responsibilities.
So when I married, I came to the startling realization that though I had enjoyed the benefits of hospitality my whole life, I had no idea how to reciprocate. I had a vague notion that it included brownies, coffee, and a table. But I didn’t know how to bake, I could barely cook, and I didn’t even own a coffee pot!
My early forays into the unknown territory of hospitality filled me with anxiety. I wanted every detail to be perfect, complete with a spotless house and a gourmet meal. With this standard, I can well understand why any woman would struggle with the command to be hospitable. And yet, God’s word insists that we are called to practice hospitality.
“Above all, love each other deeply, for love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” 1 Peter 4:8-9 NIV
Older women in particular are called to put hospitality into practice. When speaking of widows, Paul writes: “[she should be] …well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people…” 1 Timothy 5:10 NIV
Hospitality is not optional if we are to truly follow the command to love our neighbor. Gifted or not, we are called to open our doors and hearts to those God places in our lives. In an increasingly lonely and isolated world, sitting across the table while sharing our lives leads to a sense of community and belonging.
Though I struggled in this area early in my married life, I came to realize that with time and experience, practicing hospitality became easier. So for those who find it a difficult task, I’d like to encourage you to keep these three simple points in mind.
Open the Door
As in all good things, taking the first step is the most important. Opening the door to community and fellowship means starting with opening the door to your home. Too often, we are afraid to invite people into the intimate areas of our life. It’s often easier to meet for coffee in a café (and there’s times when that is perfectly fine) rather than expose ourselves with our unwashed dishes and piles of laundry.
But it’s in our imperfect surroundings that we often find the most meaningful connection. A perfect home can actually create a feeling of anxiety in your guest who may look around and wonder if she can meet the same standard. I prefer to focus on a tidy kitchen and bathroom and not become overly worried about the rest of the house.
Focus on the Conversation
Your guest likely will not remember the state of your home as much as they will remember the conversations. Were they meaningful? Were they encouraging? Or were they filled with gossip and negativity? When the conversations are Christ-centered, hearts are filled, and you leave with a sense of renewed hope and purpose.
Give What You Have
Can you make a cup of coffee or tea? Great! You’re all set. Sometimes simple is best. Do what works for you. Our family’s schedule gives us little time to invite a family over for a meal, but taking time for coffee and cake is easy for us.
At the end of the day, your hospitality style will be unique to you and that’s a wonderful thing! We are not called to fulfill this command in the exact same way our neighbor does it, but in a way that reflects who God created us to be. Whether we are given one talent, five, or ten, we can offer it to God knowing that He will take it and multiply it across the years in ways we might never fully know.
We have a world that is in desperate need of a Savior and full of many people who would never think to darken the door of a church. But they just might come into your home and sit at your table if you offer them a place to belong. You have a powerful opportunity to welcome them and show them Christ, simply by inviting them in and opening your door.