Open Heart, Open Home
And how do the apostles tell us to respond? With hospitality.
In Romans 15:7 Paul said, “Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” The hospitality that Paul talked about here and that Peter talked about in 1 Peter 4:8-9 is hospitality to our fellow believers. You grew up sharing meals with family, but how often do you open your home to your brothers and sisters in Christ? Sure, you may have your friends from church over for popcorn and a movie night, but what about the rest of your church family? Because like it or not, they are your family, in a more real and eternal sense than your earthly parents or siblings.
As recipients of free grace and members of an eternal family, we are commanded to show eager hospitality to those around us. And this doesn’t just apply to people who feel they are gifted in this area or families with kids and large dining room tables. Christ has opened each of our hearts so that we can open our homes.
John makes this connection in 1 John 3:16-17: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” The first evidence of God’s love in us is love for our brothers, portrayed through physical provision for them.
But hospitality can be daunting, especially as a single person. We worry our apartment isn’t nice enough, and the only thing we can cook is tacos.
As a newlywed, married to a student, working part time, and living in an almost windowless apartment in the sketchy part of Atlanta, I was reluctant to invite our church family into our less-than-glamorous apartment and try to cook a meal on a paltry budget.
Then I got a much-needed reminder from my conscience of a sister. When we feel frustration, fear or insecurity at the thought of opening our home, we may need a heart-check: What is the motive behind our hospitality? My sister said, “I can’t do it for me, I can’t even do it just for other people. I have to do it for Christ. That’s the only kind of hospitality that God really loves.”
If you’re afraid you won’t measure up, good. Hospitality is not about you. It is about blessing others for Christ’s sake. Remember Romans 15:7: Welcome one another … for the glory of God.”
How do we do this practically? Here are four things to think about as a single host.
1. Find what works. Hospitality can take many forms. Most often it is welcoming others into your home, but there are times when that may not work. Maybe the elderly in your church can’t do the stairs to your apartment — take them out for lunch or bring it to them. Will your roommates be away next week? Invite the big family from church over while they’re gone so you have more space. Maybe you live too far from a family to invite them to your home — pack a picnic and invite them to share it with you at a park after church. Think about how to best serve your brothers and sisters.
2. Leave your comfort zone. Invite a large family over (I promise they will all fit in your apartment and won’t mind it a bit). Be OK inviting someone you know can cook better than you (she will be happy to get to visit and not be the cook for once). Have young couples over for a game night or host a Bible study or prayer meeting. It’s easiest to just invite some of your single friends over, but real fellowship (and real obedience) doesn’t happen when you pick and choose your brothers and sisters.
3. Take advantage of being single. As a single, you have more flexibility and free time than the stay-at-home mom with three little kids, the middle-aged couple running their teenagers around town, the international couple who are still unpacking boxes and learning English or the elderly person whose time is consumed by doctor’s visits and the need to rest. Take advantage of your unique situation to minister to these people.
4. Do it. It’s not called “practicing” hospitality for nothing. It takes time and experience to be good at it, but there’s no other way to get there. Nobody is hospitable because they are itching to fill their spare time with meal prep. Your reason for practicing hospitality should not be to show off your domestic skills to the other singles in your church, impress your guests or get an invitation to their next shin-dig. You are to be hospitable because Christ commands it.
If all that sounds like a lot of work, you’re right. So often we focus on the work it takes to invite, prepare and serve others through hospitality, because it is a lot of work. But like any obedience, God promises to bless it. Blessing may take the form of fellowship in a time of loneliness, personal sanctification as you serve others or encouragement in your faith from people you may have never had conversations with otherwise.
You have received abundantly. Give abundantly, and seek to reflect the love God has shown to you as you extend it to your eternal family through hospitality.
Mary Davis is a wife, mother of one, and Canadian transplant to Louisiana. She is a freelance editor and (occasionally) a writer.