Reflecting on this opening week’s topic of hospitality, let’s recap what we’ve learned:
- We don’t need a lot, or anything fancy, to be good hosts.
- Our gratitude for God’s grace motivates us to offer compelling hospitality.
- Hospitality can mitigate conflict and create opportunities for understanding.
- We honor God when we serve others different from us and who cannot repay us.
Even so, we may experience these lessons more as “to-dos” in our already long list of daily tasks. Hospitality can feel like a squeeze on our resources of time, patience, space, and money. Indeed, hospitality imposes on its giver to bless its recipient. This reality may make us reluctant to wade into the waters of generous living. It may feel like too much.
Our reluctance can stem from perception. What images or emotions pop into your mind when you think about the word hospitality? Big, elaborate meals? House guests who never leave? Large gifts of money you simply don’t have? Author and pastor Eugene Peterson wrote, “Stories are verbal acts of hospitality.” Think about that. Stories, by nature, invite the hearer or reader into shared experience. If we reconsider hospitality in this light, what new images come to mind?
Write down your typical daily schedule, something like:
6 a.m. Get up, get coffee, get dressed
8 a.m. Arrive at or begin work
12 p.m. Lunch
5 p.m. Work out
6:30 p.m. Home again, make dinner
7:30 p.m. Walk dog
10 p.m. Fall into bed
Now, beside or within each timeframe, jot the names of people you encounter—family members, baristas, coworkers, servers at your favorite lunch spot, front desk staff at your gym, fellow commuters (yes, we can even show hospitality in traffic), your neighbors. Before considering what hospitality may look like with the people God puts in your everyday path, make a quick list of the daily acts of hospitality you experience. Has a family member made the coffee so you didn’t have to? Has a coworker completed extra tasks so you could start your week back from vacation without stress? Has your neighbor helped you to rake leaves, or brought you a warm loaf of homemade bread? The hospitality we value is the best starting point for the hospitality we give. To become “inventive” in hospitality, we must view it through a new lens. We must shift our perception of the practice from overly burdensome service done out of obligation to Spirit-guided gestures to make someone feel at home in our presence—and curious about Christ.
Hospitality is an invitation that doesn’t take no for an answer, doesn’t expect to be repaid, and is so attractive that saying no to it would seem absurd. The practice of hospitality does more than extend welcome to others. It invites us into daily communion with the greatest host the world has ever known.