The lost art of hospitality

It’s a relatively staple part of Christian testimony in the West, after a team has returned from a poorer nation to be genuinely moved at the hospitality and generosity of their hosts compared with their own attempts. You’ve probably heard people talk about hospitality and you probably agree that it is very important, but what is hospitality?

There are, admittedly, lots of forms that hospitality can take. There is the open generous way we treat people in church, and the generous, warm-hearted way in which we engage with people as a gathered church community.

There is hospitality as a way of including people and growing your church:

Then there is the more radical form of hospitality of letting migrants or the homeless live in your summer home, empty house, house that you rent out etc… As Micael Grenholm says,

In Europe overall there are 11 million empty homes, in contrast to four million homeless people. We have so much space, so much housing and so much wealth, and yet so many are arguing that we’ve reached the limit and can’t help poor people anymore.

Well, quite.

My guess is that many believers would seek something that goes slightly further than being thoughtful to people at church on Sunday and probably not as far as letting immigrants live in your second home.

So what do you mean by hospitality? If you mean having people over for dinner every now and then, then what you’re doing is being friendly to your friends and that’s not hospitality or at the very least it’s a starved, skinny and under-nourished form of hospitality.

Hospitality is making space, not just in your schedule but, in your life for other people. It means embracing regular upheaval in your otherwise ordered existence to care for, love and share with those in need.

There’s a cost to hospitality, as Tim Challies says,

You cannot have a home that is warm and full and inviting, you cannot have every child fed and cared for, while also having every dish done and every sock laundered. You just can’t.

Paul writes in Romans 12:13,

When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

Hospitality can take a variety of forms but for me it comes in two regular sizes – food & lodging. Those are the most common needs and problems that arise all over the world. The need for money or work is also pretty common but those are solved by generosity not hospitality. So for me it means feeding people not just entertaining them. That means breakfast, lunches, dinners and not just one dinner booked some time in advance.

It means giving people a place to sleep and not just for the odd night. Children have been evicted from the bedrooms and forced to share with a sibling (the horrors!) in order to make space for friends in need of a safe place to live. Offices have become spare bedrooms, quiet relaxing evenings become somewhat busier, costs go up with extra mouths to feed.

It’s the cost of helping people be disciples of Christ. What do you do when the woman you’ve encouraging breaks off her sinful relationship with her boyfriend and suddenly has nowhere to live? Come and stay. A few months became four years.

What do you do when the couple who are unexpectedly pregnant want to get married but have nowehere to live? Come and stay.

What do you do when a young man in your church loses his job and then his flat? Come and stay.

What do you do when you meet a sister who is a refugee from the war-torn land of Syria and is living in unsafe accommodation? Come and stay.

These opportunities also show us if something is out of alignment in our lives or church. If you’re not regularly being presented with opportunities to open your home then either you or your church has become disconnected from the disadvantaged and that is a problem.

In our world of economic segregation, the poor are not always with us – they are with somebody else but they should be with you.

Photo by Prestonbot

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