Mar 11, 2016

The Joy of Hospitality

By Marie MacPherson

“Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:13) A decade ago, as a brand-new wife and homemaker, I read this Pauline mandate in light of my new vocations. Visions of glossy invitations, grand parties, and four-course meals flitted through my mind. Was entertaining according to the standards of Miss Manners really what God wanted me to do? And so began my quest to learn more about Biblical hospitality.

What is hospitality?

Wester’s 1828 Dictionary defines hospitality as “the act or practice of receiving and entertaining strangers or guests without reward, or with kind and generous liberality.”

Not very many generations ago, extended family routinely joined together for Sunday dinner, neighbors gathered on the front porch to share the news, and specific rooms were set aside in homes to entertain guests.

It seems more and more rare these days to be invited into others’ homes to share a meal or some conversation. Lives get busy, but in this technological age  more than ever, people are yearning for human connection.

However, practicing hospitality doesn’t have to been interpreted narrowly as simply inviting others over for dinner; there are many modern ways of being hospitable, which will be examined below.


Why Practice Hospitality?

One reason to practice hospitality is that it is commanded in Scripture:

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2

Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” I Peter 4:9
Another reason to practice hospitality is that Jesus did! In the Gospels, we are told how Jesus welcomed the lowliest of the lowly to dine with him. But He came to earth not only as an example for us, but more importantly to live a perfect life in our stead and die in our place for our failure to live up to that example. He has fulfilled the law’s burden and given us freedom in its place. Even today, Christ is the perfect host: He adopts us into His family with the waters of baptism and He feeds us with his body and blood for the strengthening of our faith and the forgiveness of our sins.

With that comforting Gospel in mind, we remember that a natural result of our salvation is doing the good works that God has prepared in advance for us (Ephesians 2:8-10). The Holy Spirit has come into our hearts and made them His home. He prompts us to serve others in the diversity of ways that are given to us. For many of us, that means using our homes to serve Him as a safe and comforting haven to the world.

How Do I Offer Hospitality?

Whatever way you’d like! This is one blessing of living in the Twenty-first Century! We aren’t tied to Miss Manners or Victorian ideals of entertaining. There is no prescription of how often we must entertain or which activities we must do. Talk with your family and make sure you are on the same page. Experiment and find your groove! Here are some ideas.

Inside the home:
·         Invite another family to your home to share a meal. This doesn’t have to be a financial burden if you make a nourishing soup and salad.
·         Invite an older couple from church or the community to share dessert with you after the children are in bed.
·         Ask another family to share a potluck dinner with you in your home.
·         In nice weather, invite a single mother and her child to meet you at a park for a picnic.
·         Have a play-date in your home.
·         If you think the dads in the families would also enjoy fellowship, invite another family for a Saturday morning play-date.
·         Invite another woman to meet you for coffee/tea at your house during rest time.
·         Ask an older woman in the community to come to your house to teach you something, like knitting, baking bread, making sauerkraut, etc.
·         Host a game-night for a few families. Involve your children in planning age-appropriate games.
·         Make your home a welcome retreat for your children’s friends.
·         Host a movie night in your home with discussion afterwards.

Outside the house:
·         Bring another family a meal or snacks during an illness or after the birth of a new baby. You don’t have to get fancy; the best meal I was ever brought was a rotisserie chicken and a veggie tray!
·         Visit a nursing home or senior community on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, yearly) to share the joy of your children and their talents with them.
·         Make, or help your children make, little gifts for upcoming holidays and tuck a Bible passage in them. Deliver them to neighbors, hospitals, and strangers at the grocery store. Think May baskets, Valentines, Easter, Fourth of July, etc. Warning: Once you’ve done this with your children, they will think of ALL of the possible occasions and beg you to let them “craft” for every. single. holiday.
·         Send cards or notes to older folks at your church who don’t get out very often, or to missionaries who need encouragement. (You know all of the children’s artwork all over the house. . .?)

I’m sure you can think of dozens of other ways to offer hospitality to the church, community, and world. Feel free to offer additional ideas in the comments below.

Even beyond these specific examples, stay in the Word so your conscience is sharp and you can be ready to offer hospitality without a plan. Don’t fret about a clean house or the perfect menu--be ready with a warm and welcoming personality, just as our Lord made the most of His opportunities on earth to bless and comfort the hurting.

There are seasons in life when offering this type of elaborate hospitality is not possible. Sometimes a kind word or a smile to those in our midst can be a gift to lighten someone else’s load. Conversely, we can humble ourselves to be the recipient of hospitality and bless others as they seek to serve us and provide for our needs.

The Blessings of Hospitality:
God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6).
Fast forward several years. I’d read about and practiced hospitality. I grew comfortable in my role as homemaker and hostess. Too comfortable. I was in a routine, or maybe a rut. We had people over, but they were mostly friends. I began to pray that the Lord would stretch me and help me offer hospitality to those outside my comfort zone. But, to be honest, I was quite shocked as this prayer was answered.

I was alone in church one Sunday afternoon, measuring the windows in the nursery for new curtains. A middle-aged, disheveled man presented himself, and I immediately felt frightened. He said he had been at church that morning and someone had pointed me out. The member had told this man that he needed to talk to my husband (who runs The Hausvater Project, a ministry supporting fathers as the heads of their homes) about some of his struggles. He wondered if I could introduce him.

I stood there shocked, surprised, and speechless. He realized the awkwardness of the proposition while I was alone and vulnerable in the church and apologized, introducing himself. I was still a bit cold, but I gave him directions to our house, telling him my husband was there.

I immediately packed up my things and drove home to inform my husband with vague information. Then I started the coffee and grabbed some cookies from the freezer. The stranger arrived about 15 minutes later, having walked to our home because he had no car. His story unfolded. He was a former Lutheran pastor who, through a heartbreaking set of circumstances, had lost his job and his home, and had been estranged from his wife and children.

The three of us had hot coffee and cold cookies that afternoon, but over the next several years, he joined us for Christmas and Easter Dinners, and many dinners in between. He worshiped with us and studied the Bible with us. He became a confidant to my husband, a counselor to me, and godfather to our children. We laughed together, cried together, and became closer than I could have imagined. We helped him, yes, but  he helped us even more. Though he has since moved to a different state, we still keep in touch.

The beauty of hospitality is not only that it changes the world for the better, it also changes us as Christians. Time and time again, hospitality has forced me to exercise spiritual discipline and trust God to fulfill His First Article role of Preserver. It takes faith to be generous to others even when our budget is tight. Offering hospitality helps us pause and consider God’s wonders (Job 37:14), looking for the amazing ways in which He can provide as we reap the blessings of living out our vocation in Christ.

I’m thankful that the Lord opened my heart to offering hospitality. It has blessed my family, and been a blessing to others.  It has been a natural way to share God’s perfect grace with others, within the context of my imperfect home!  My prayer for you is that God would open your eyes to the opportunities around you to practice hospitality, all the while resting fully in His forgiving love for our failures to do so.


***

Marie K. MacPherson is wife to Ryan, homeschooling hausmutter to their five living children, and redeemed child of God. She used to actively participate in theater, debate team, choir, and international travel, but realizes now that those were merely a foretaste of the joys of her current vocation: managing children’s dramatics, arbitrator of kids’ arguments, singing hymns and lullabies, and sharing unbelievable mission stories. When she’s not caring for her own children, Marie reads extensively, researching natural health, marriage, and parenting. She is the editor of the upcoming book Mothering Many: Sanity-Saving Strategies from Moms of Four or More, due to be released in April of 2016. Follow her blog at: www.intoyourhandsllc.com/blog

Image: "Hip, Hip, Hurrah!" by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1888

6 comments:

  1. Thank you for the reminder that hospitality means opening ourselves and our homes to more than just our friends! I'm great at having friends over, but not people I don't know as well. I'm going to email a new young couple at our church right now and see if they have plans for Easter dinner. Thanks for the nudge!

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    1. Wonderful! I'm sure it will be a blessing to them!

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  2. It's fun to see you writing here, Marie. May God bless you and all of your endeavors (I'm excited to discover your blog and soon-to-be-released book from your link).

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    1. Hi! Nice to "see" you, too! Thank you for the kind words! Hopefully we can bump into each other in person, soon
      !

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  3. It's fun to see your article, too, Hamlette! I am so thankful for like-minded, confessional Lutheran sisters in the faith.

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    1. Thanks, Kelly Jo! It's cool seeing people from BLC pop up here :-)

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