February 26, 2019 Juliet Groton

Biblical Hospitality over Busy Cordiality

Imagine a warm home and friends gathered around a lovely display at the dinner table, all sharing laughter and stories. Community allows fun memories to loom about, lounging in the safe space it provides. What if we could use that same safe space to draw others into a recognition of God? Instead of always feeling pressure to invite someone to church, maybe we should be trying inviting them into our homes first. Loving people where they are at, without trying to change them but trying to love them. It could be as simple as inviting them over for dinner and could lead to an invitation into the house of the Lord, that they will accept and find a renewed freedom in.

Instead of always feeling pressure to invite someone to church, maybe we should be trying inviting them into our homes first.

My own personal experience with hospitality actualized during my junior year of college. In the beginning of that fall semester, I remember God pressing a desire in my heart to be hospitable. With no recollection why, I began praying and asking Him for an opportunity to use the gift of hospitality. Within the few days following, one my friends asked me if I desired a new position, and I had not even mentioned my personal experience to her. God began confirming that He would use me for that gift. Later on, I was then asked to be a prayer leader for the ministry “Prayer Sisters” at Southeastern University. It was out of the blue, and unexpected.

As a prayer leader, it would be my responsibility to gather girls together to pray. I would host the meetings in my dorm common room. What I learned that year was that hospitality is vulnerability and openness. It’s not about the fanciest food, or serving plates, it’s about the fellowship that is curated by the Holy Spirit’s power. That group would become some of my closest friends today, all because I trusted God to open the door of my dorm, and my heart, and welcomed them in. Hospitality is the willingness to welcome in strangers even when we think we are not perfectly tidied up.

The gift of hospitality is used throughout the Bible as an example of forging relationships. Instead of only inviting someone to church, one should also invite them for dinner. The mission field can be at our front doors if Christians allow it. Before demonstrating the gift of hospitality, it first needs to be looked at from the biblical context. We can learn so much from the Bible about how to love outsiders. Instead of keeping them at arm’s length, let us invite them in. At times, we can be afraid of letting others in due to religious differences, background, and even status. What would happen if we invited that same group of people into our homes? Then we would realize, we are all not that different after all.

At times, we can be afraid of letting others in due to religious differences, background, and even status. What would happen if we invited that same group of people into our homes? Then we would realize, we are all not that different after all.

There are some figures in the Bible who used the gift and further touched the lives of others. It has become a forgotten art, a simply beautiful way to serve others in our very own homes. To understand this concept more effectively, we should begin by analyzing the original meaning of the word hospitality from the Biblical text. In the NIV Bible translation of the word hospitality, we find it repeats eight times in seven verses. It comes from the Greek word philoxenia, which translates to “lover of strangers.” Someone who is hospitable loves meeting new people and authentically loves bringing them into their home. It sounds like someone similar to Christ.

Jesus himself has a hospitable heart, for the broken, the lost, and the empty. In the Gospels, Jesus acts out in hospitality to those strangers. The ones called dirty, unworthy, and forgotten. Jesus invited the prostitutes, the tax collectors, and the sick into the house of God. He was already aware that they are children of God, and they only needed that invitation to come into His house. This also coincides with the Martha and Mary story. In the Gospel of Luke 10, Jesus enters a village and a woman named Martha opens her home to him. As Jesus is invited into the home, Martha’s sister Mary goes to Jesus and sits at his feet, listening to him intently. Martha, however, is busy making preparations and remains distracted. Her focus leaves her guest, and she becomes frustrated that Mary is not working like she is.

This is an example of being “busy” rather than being “hospitable.” Busyness shows more care in presentation, hospitality shows more care in the person. No matter what type of house we live in or what food we make, if we do not take an interest in putting our guest first while they are in our home, then it means nothing. Martha concerned herself more about the presentation of the place, rather than being at the feet of the person, who was Jesus. Sometimes we need to  remember that when we have someone in our home, they might really need a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. They will not receive this warm attentiveness if the host is busy in the kitchen. Be present with the person in the moment. The cleaning up will happen later.

Busyness shows more care in presentation, hospitality shows more care in the person.

The power that hospitality holds is often forgotten. A meaningful cup of coffee brewed with care and intentionality, and the company of listening ears rather than the host trying to convert their guests will touch their hearts in a more effective way. God always remained accessible to us before extending His invitation of salvation; what is stopping us from being accessible to others? Intentionally loving the person where they are by inviting them into our homes is much more powerful than waiting until we think they are worthy to step into our doors.

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References:

Hershberger, Michele. A Christian View of Hospitality: Expecting Surprises. Herald Press, 1996.

Mahoney, Kelli. “What Is the Spiritual Gift of Hospitality?” ThoughtCo. Accessed September 7, 2018. https://www.thoughtco.com/spiritual-gifts-hospitality-712404.

Newman, Elizabeth. Untamed Hospitality. BrazozPress, 2007.

Pohl, Christine D. Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999.

Richard, Lucien. Living the Hospitality of God. Paulist Press, 2000.

Yong, Amos. Hospitality & The Other. Orbis Books, 1970.

Mahoney, Kelli. “What Is the Spiritual Gift of Hospitality?” ThoughtCo. Accessed September 7, 2018. https://www.thoughtco.com/spiritual-gifts-hospitality-712404.

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About the Author

Juliet Groton Juliet Groton is a Senior at Southeastern University. She is majoring in Intercultural Studies, with a minor in History. She wants to pursue a career in missions, with a focus on the US, as well as one day take on a pastoral role in a women's ministry. When she is not studying, Juliet enjoys reading, and serving at her church and in the community.