True Follower: Radical Hospitality

“Joey and Tabby need a place to live for a few days. Could they stay here until they work something out?”

Our son and his wife were living with us for a few months. They had met Joey and Tammy—not married, broke, homeless, probably using drugs—somewhere. Her grandmother had kicked them out. They wanted to help them.We said yes, for a few days.

The next day was Easter. We set two more places and they feasted with us. And asked questions about the meaning of Easter. And wondered why we would take in two strangers.

The few days became three weeks. Joey got a job and they left, but we were glad they were with us for that brief time.

Practice Hospitality

Scripture tells us to practice hospitality.Most of the time we think that means inviting people into our home for a meal, a cup of coffee, an open house, or to watch football. Those are good things to do. Home provides a place to grow relationships, deepen friendships, create community.

We do that at our home. Because of our ministry, we entertain often. We have formal dinners, wedding receptions, outreaches. We also have barbecues for students and staff, brunch for my office, a Christmas party for our neighborhood. We seek to make our home a place where people feel welcome and comfortable.

Welcome the Stranger

But when God’s Word tells us to practice hospitality, something far more radical is meant. In Middle East culture of biblical times (and to some extent today), the custom was to invite anyone who showed up at your door to be your guest. People traveled on foot from village to village. There were few inns to accommodate them. So they might knock on the door of a resident, who would feel obligated to warmly host them.To practice hospitality means to welcome the stranger into our home as an honored guest. Or perhaps to make our home a shelter, a haven, a respite for friend and stranger in need.And for family.

Every one of my husband’s family has lived with us over the years. His dad as a recovering alcoholic. His sister and her husband as they looked for work. His much younger brother in his adolescent rebellion. His mother in her early Alzheimer’s.

Each one brought joy and challenges. And wonderful (now) stories.I certainly never expected to have so many house guests. I’m not a great housekeeper. And I’m an introvert who loves space and time alone. I don’t go looking for people to stay in our home.

So God has sent them.

Radical Hospitality

When my assistant Valerie had surgery, she and her mom—who came to care for her—spent two weeks recovering at our home.

My Norwegian friend Liv asked if her friend could spend three months here to escape the Nordic winter’s damage to her health.

My daughter Michelle loves on people all the time. When her friend ran away from home, we provided a safe place for her for several months until she and her parents reconciled.

But the most radical hospitality God called us to was welcoming a 9-year-old boy into our home as our son. Having grown up mostly on the streets of Orlando with his drug addict, alcoholic mother, he brought alien customs to our home. The adjustments were shocking to him and to us.

As he moved into his teen years, he and his friends brought a new world into our world. Dustin basically lived at our house. When I asked him if his mother didn’t want him to come home, he replied, “Not really.” Brandon’s girlfriend stayed with us for two months. Chris needed an address for his probation officer.

Our son's friends showed respect to us on the surface, but they abused our hospitality: they stole from us, abused drugs and alcohol, lied to us. Yet to this day, every one of them would say they know we loved them. And they are sorry for their behavior.

So are we crazy? Or fools?

Or just following Jesus?

He said: “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14)

Really, though, I don’t think we come close to the kind of radical hospitality Jesus describes—and exhibits: He has invited you and me to come live in His home forever!

What about you? Is your home open to whomever God might send your way?

c2013 Judy Douglass