By Jamie Harms
Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. — I Peter 4:9
When I hear the word hospitality, I think of my mom. Through the years, I have watched her host hundreds if not thousands of people in our home. Whether it be youth group kids, neighbors, extended family, or friends, all are welcome. While still living at home, I remember that we frequently got calls from overnight guests with about 15 to 20 minutes notice of their arrival. The call would kick everything into hostess mode. One sister would change the sheets on the guest bed. One sister would wipe down the bathroom, and the last sister would tidy up the downstairs, while my mom went to her arsenal of frozen meals and Girl Scout cookies in the chest freezer to pick out dinner. Thus, by the time guests arrived, my mom was ready to greet them with dinner in the oven, tea in the kettle, and cookies on a plate. Once our guests arrived, she would sit down at the table with them and enjoy the rest of the evening.
I know that sudden notice of overnight guests is not the norm these days, but the idea of being ready to welcome others at a moment’s notice still applies. My mom continues to model for me a heart of hospitality in the home and in the world. This is a Jesus-like hospitality that Peter calls us to in chapter 4 verse 9.
As I grew up, I wanted to run my own home as my mom did; however, I had lessons to learn in the area of hospitality. When my young family moved to Eugene, we lived in a cinder block house with industrial tile floors and a terrible layout. I wanted to have people over, but I felt embarrassed. Even if my house was clean, I did not have a bunch of nice things, and I felt as though it would make others uncomfortable to be in a space that was not as nice as their own. One of the first lessons I had to learn was that hospitality is not about impressing others but about blessing them. Trying to impress someone is about you, not about your guest. It is how you look, what the guest thinks about you, and how the guest might talk about you to others. This is in sharp contrast to blessing someone, which is all about a relationship with them. Blessing them finds ways to be with them, to encourage them, and to point them to Jesus no matter the surroundings. It took everything in me to make the decision to offer my home in those years, but I am glad that I did. In reality, as I blessed others, it blessed me, too.
Another lesson I learned from my mom is that with hospitality people are always more important than to-do lists. I watched her many times drop what she was doing to be present with others, including with me. It is so easy to turn down opportunities to bless others when we are busy with our own things. Yes, there is a time where we just need to buckle down and get something done. However, more often than not, we let our tasks take precedence over taking care of others. The laundry can wait. It will still be there tomorrow, where an opportunity to encourage a friend may not. The practical outworking of hospitality will be an inconvenience and a sacrifice, which is why Peter commands us to show hospitality, knowing it is not something that comes naturally to us. Even if we enjoy having others in our homes, we will have to put aside some things to be with people. In the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10, we see Jesus’ heart to be with His children. Mary was entertaining her guest, while Martha was completing her to-do list at the expense of being with Jesus. To-do lists in and of themselves are not a bad thing unless they interfere with the relationships God has placed in our lives.
We often associate hospitality with our homes, but when Peter talks about hospitality in chapter 4, he does not say show hospitality if you have a home. Rather, the charge to show hospitality applies in any and all settings and situations and is a way of stewarding God’s grace. Hospitality extends far beyond the walls in which we live to how we give our time, talents, and resources to encourage and to bless others. In this way, hospitality is a gift from God and stewarding our blessings well means sharing them with others instead of keeping them to ourselves. If submission is putting the needs and desires of others above our own as we trust God to provide, then hospitality follows closely as we take what God has provided to meet our needs and share with others. This is the very heart of hospitality.
Questions for Thought
Describe a time when someone blessed you with hospitality. What did it look like? How did it make you feel?
What is one way that you can stretch yourself to be more hospitable this week?
Feel free to add your answers to the comment chain below to encourage one another as we seek to live out what God has called each of us to do in the area of hospitality.