“Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth.” (3 John 1)
Years ago, while listening to a radio program, I learned that the root meaning of “Hospitality” was basically “Lover of Strangers.” At that point, I enjoyed entertaining friends in my home, but was unaware of the deeper meaning of being hospitable.
Upon learning that, I have tried to be conscious of opportunities to bless “orphans and widows,” even those who are strangers to me. When I open my home and life to the lonely, tired, and ill, I have a choice of how I will serve them.
In each instance, I can attempt to discern what would “speak love” to these dear ones, or I can focus on “impressing” them. If I am working to display my “impressive” home-making abilities, I am not serving them in love. (I am serving myself!)
However, this does not mean I should swing to the other side of the continuum, refusing to provide the blessings of special treats and comfort, when it is in my power to do so. (Shane Claiborne speaks of this love for the poor in his book The Irresistible Revolution.)
When I bring a meal, I choose to find ingredients that will speak of God’s love. For example, perhaps making a flavorful meal that is more time-intensive, which a busy family running to hospital appointments won’t have time to prepare. Or, fresh fruits and vegetables for someone subsisting on canned foods. (In her reminisces of their daughter’s time in the NICU following birth, Shauna James Ahern gratefully extolls the blessing of fresh berries brought to them in the hospital.)
One evening, when a tired friend arrived for supper, she soon relaxed, and said, “I love how I always feel comfortable enough in your home that I can toss my coat, and get myself a glass of water out of your refrigerator.” We laughed (as I poured her a glass of water!), and then she described what she meant.
She felt a relaxed atmosphere in our home, that truly spoke “home” to her. It wasn’t a stuffy evening of entertaining her with my cooking skills, or making her feel awkward as I served her. Even though I was preparing a special meal for her, she didn’t feel “in the way.” She was able to sit and tell me about her heartaches without feeling embarrassed that she wasn’t helping with dinner.
When guests come to my home, I want to bless them with the luxury of being able to rest and rejuvenate. When I put out fresh veggies in a pretty bowl, rose-scented soaps and fluffy towels, and peaceful music, these are not done to impress, but to nourish. If someone walks in the door, and tasks are not completed, I don’t view it as a disaster. “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:9)
Instead, I begin to visit with our guest, and enjoy the pleasure of their company. Often, they will join me in the kitchen, as I check on bread in the oven or stir a pot of soup. In offering true hospitality, I offer them my home. They are welcome to “pour a glass of water,” take off their shoes, browse through a book, and sip a cup of tea; in essence, “making themselves at home!”
When guests arrive, I try to never get so “busy,” that I cannot stop to give a listening ear or to speak a word of love (even if it means the rolls turn into doorstops!). This is definitely simple hospitality. I am not burdening myself with Martha Stewart’s entertaining obligations, or obsessing over the perfect seating arrangement. I can simply open my home, and share the beautiful things of life that God has blessed me with.
I want my guests to depart, knowing the refreshment of Christ’s love, not gasping for air after being smothered with “love.”
“Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:13)
How do you show hospitality? Feel free to let me know in the comments!
To be continued… Join me next week for Part 19! If you would like to place my “Simple Living” button on your blog, please copy the code located on the right-side of the blog page. (Copy and paste it in as an HTML element.)