What Exactly Is Hospitality?
What is hospitality?
Is it cooking three course meals and impressing guests with your beautiful tablescapes? Is it being a whizz in the kitchen like Betty Crocker? Or being the hostess with the mostess like June Cleaver?
Can we all just breathe a big collective sigh of relief that wearing pearls and heels is not a requirement in the hospitality department? (As lovely as you are, June Cleaver!)
Here’s the good news: hospitality doesn’t have to include cooking or cleaning or even having anyone into your home for that matter. (Don’t think I’m leading you down the lazy path, ladies. Stay with me. Sometimes it is hard work and a sacrifice, and that’ s ok if God calls you to do that.)
You can practice hospitality and not even own a home.
Hospitality can happen at a coffee shop, in a dorm room, on the soccer field, in your car, or at a nursing home.
Websters defines a hospitable person as someone disposed to behave in a warm way and manner, to entertain with generous sensitivity, availability and kindness.
Hospitality is a ” concrete and personal expression of Christian love, intended to include strangers in a circle of care.” (New Dictionary of Biblical Theology)
Hospitality isn’t about impressing someone. It’s about blessing someone.
“Entertaining” may be what comes to mind when you think of hospitality, but entertaining is more concerned about presentation, kitchen skills, home decor, and showcasing your Martha Stewart-y skills. (These are all “good things” as Martha reminds us, but they aren’t at the heart of hospitality.)
The difference between hospitality and entertaining lies where the glory lands: on God as we reflect His goodness and advance His Kingdom messages, or on you as you shine as the hostess the mostess. Hospitality is truly service for a higher cause.
Hospitality might give a bottle of water to a stranger, as you all sit in the ICU waiting for news of a loved one.
Hospitality might bring a Chai latte to the nursing home, a pie to a grieving neighbor, clothes to a young mom struggling to keep her family afloat. Hospitality looks around and meets a specific need in order to bring people who were once strangers closer together.
The needs might be physical, spiritual, emotional, or practical: hospitality doesn’t discriminate.
I’ve often had women sit at my kitchen table for tea or lunch, only to find out that what they actually needed was a sympathetic ear or someone to hash out troubling unbelief in their life. The tea was great; but the listening met the need.
Hospitality sits with the crying widow, it encourages the deflated friend, it speaks truth to the defiant teenager while using food or token gifts like iced coffee as gestures of good will.
Yes, it may include cooking and hosting guests for a week. But if you are just starting out in your pursuit of active hospitality, might I suggest just starting small?
1. Take the Pre-Hospitality Check to make sure your heart is worshipping as you step out in faith to extend love and kindness.
2. Start by asking God to open your eyes to the need of one person around you, that you may or may not know.
3. Trust that God will lead you to do the works He’s planned for you in advance.
4. Prepare and plan. Decide how you’ll meet that need.
5. Practice Hospitality. There’s joy in the obedience.
TEN SIMPLE WAYS TO PRACTICE HOSPITALITY
Invite someone in for tea or coffee. Buy store-bought tea cookies like Pepperidge Farm Bordeaux cookies. (My favorite.) Prepare a small table with your prettiest mugs or tea cups and start there.
- Show up with Iced Coffee. One of my favorite ways to show kindness to a new mother, a mom of toddlers, or anyone really is the gift of liquid energy. JK, but it’s kind of true. (Hey, I’m from New England, the land of Dunkin Donuts.) Shoot them a quick text that says, “Hey, Are you home? I’m coming by with coffee for you and donuts for the kids. I’m not staying. Just wanted you to know I was thinking of you. Can I pick you up anything else on the way?”
- Befriends someone as you “wait” for your kids: ball games, music practices, church. Offer snacks, water, friendship.
- Visit someone in the nursing home. Bring pictures or flowers to brighten their room.
- Bring a meal to someone recovering from surgery.
- Send a letter to someone who is lonely or who suffered a loss of some sort.
- Take a walk with someone who is struggling emotionally.
- Pass along your gently used kids clothes or toys to a younger mom who might need them.
- Take care when someone is sick: offer to clean their house, run their kids to practices, bring ginger-ale and crackers over, make sure they have what they need.
- Simply smile and interact. Help the mom whose toddler is screaming in Walmart.
These are a few simple steps to get you going , but the truth about hospitality is that it *can* be a lot of work. It is a way to spend your life for the good of someone else for the sake of the gospel, but then again, love always sacrifices for the good of others, doesn’t it? Isn’t that the example we have of Christ, who came for us, died for us, prepared a way so He could bring us home to Him? He initiated relationship with us and brought us from being “far off strangers” and alienated, to children, beloved, citizens, joint-heirs.
Next time we’ll look at hospitality in the Bible, and we’ll talk about the W-O-R-K that goes into this type of love for others. I don’t want you to get the idea that hospitality isn’t costly. It will cost you, but don’t be discouraged by this if you are just starting out in your pursuit of practicing hospitality. Just start small and God will guide you and give you joy as you serve Him.
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