“Hospitality is becoming an almost forgotten Christian virtue in our style of life today… In the New Testament, however, hospitality was a distinctive mark of Christians and Christian communities.”
from The Hospitality Commands~
In any given week, lots of people pass through my house. My kids bring friends over. Bible study ladies come every Wednesday night. It's not uncommon for people to drop by unannounced (which I love, by the way). Yet, when I read this quote, I felt like a failure.
I don't do a lot of purposeful entertaining. It's not that I mind it. I love cooking. I love the actual evening of conversation. The cleaning...well, that's another story, but I'm willing to do it for the payoff of a wonderful time with friends. I like having people in our home, but finding the time to do it is another thing entirely.
Yet again, Satan strikes. This time with a blow known as busyness.
Or is it?
Maybe he's really hitting us with inadequacy. As I think back over last week, I fed supper to three friends of my daughter's (and she took plates for three more). My younger kids had friends over to play and a couple nights they stayed to eat with us. Bible study brought another 15 people in. It's pretty common to have a few extra kids running around the house after school. So why do I think I fail? Is it because Satan has fooled me into thinking "real" hospitality involves planning, a clean house and food cooked from scratch?
I learned a lot about this subject when we hosted a college study every week. College kids are impressed with ANYTHING. They think midnight nachos are fun and they don't care if all you have to put on them is cheese. They enjoy sudden ice cream runs. They don't notice the furniture is decrepit and even take dibs on who gets it when you can finally replace it. They showed me hospitality has more to do with being available than being Martha Stewart. The biggest compliment they paid was the way they lingered (And BOY, did they linger! We stopped doing this study over a year ago and I STILL have the bags under my eyes to show for it!)
To me the main goal of hospitality is warmth. I want those who enter our home to feel comfortable enough to linger like our college kids and confident they're welcome to come back any time. My mom says a sign of a good host is when guests get into her refrigerator without asking because it shows she's made them feel at home. Hospitality is more about a feeling you provide than the environment you create.
I wish I could say my house is perfectly clean, but it isn't. Gourmet meals are rarely on the menu. The lawn needs to be mowed and my closets are embarrassing. These things aren't a priority for me and I don't think they need to be. These should not be prerequisites for inviting people in. My main goal is to make people feel welcome and comfortable. Some people find it refreshing when they catch my house in a mess (I think I've done my duty now, Linda.). I figure I do them a favor answering the door with smelly work-out clothes and no makeup. You can believe they feel better about themselves in an instant!
And let's not let the Bible intimidate us when it comes to this issue. We don't have to slaughter an animal or bake bread to practice the virtue of hospitality. Microwave popcorn and a listening ear may be all a person needs to feel welcome. Opening our homes requires opening our very selves to the people who grace our doors. THAT is where true hospitality lies.
To read more impressions of this quote, visit Joyfully Living for His Glory.