Hospitality. The very mention of the word has struck fear in my heart more than once. You see, I’m not the greatest cook, housekeeper or decorator. It’s a bad sign when after you marry and your mom comes to visit, she says of your home, “This is the best this place has ever looked!” and you respond, “I guess it just needed a man’s touch.”
I’ve sometimes felt tempted to simply say hospitality is not my gift, because I’m so clumsy at inviting people over and putting on a meal (although I still do attempt it occasionally).
So today I was encouraged by a post about hospitality I read on the Kyria Blog. In it, the author challenges the traditional definition of hospitality:
Providing a really great dinner for friends is certainly a wonderful thing to do and can be part of our practice of hospitality. But the truth is that hospitality is more about our spiritual posture than about how well we arrange our physical surroundings.
The English word hospitality shares its root with hospital—in this sense, when we offer hospitality to others, we’re in some way giving valuable care and meeting significant needs. The New Testament word for hospitality challenges our assumptions even more deeply; it’s philoxenia, which means showing brotherly love (phileo) to strangers (xenia). It’s that xenia part that’s scary! If we limit our understanding of hospitality to caring for “safe” people like family and friends, we’re missing Scripture’s challenge to us: like the Good Samaritan, we are to provide care for those we don’t know. We are to concretely extend love and welcome to those who may be smelly or scary or just plain weird. What we often associate with June Cleaver, Rachel Ray, or Martha Stewart is better epitomized by Mother Teresa and those like her whose profound love welcomed in the diseased, the starving, the dying, the stranger.
Sharing one’s home is clearly one major way to show hospitality. And I would never say that reaching out to family and friends is less important than ministering to strangers. However, hospitality doesn’t always have to take place in the home; it can happen in the trenches, be exercised equally by both genders and even be expressed over a meal shared at a (gasp) restaurant.
God does command hospitality. But He does not demand every believer express it to a Martha-Stewart standard. So no more excuses! (I’m saying this more for my benefit than yours.) Find ways to offer valuable care to and meet significant needs of those around you. God’s designed you to do that in ways unique to your personality and skill set.