Words of My Life: Hospitality
Next week we will have about 75 people into our home for a yearly event: the children of staff at our headquarters who are graduating high school and their parents. We believe they have been a vital part of our mission over their growing up years, so we honor them with a simple dessert and some fun gifts.
I have some cute Easter dinner decorations—little baskets to fill with nuts and candy and napkin rings that look like sheep—so I love to have people over for Easter. On the recent Easter afternoon there were 10 of us for dinner—Josh, his new bride, Lesley, and her daughter and her parents. Josh’s grandmother and his best friend also came. We had a yummy dinner and great conversation about Easter memories.
A good friend’s son got married a couple of months ago to a lovely Filipina girl. As the groom’s mother, my friend was planning to have the rehearsal dinner at her home—until she discovered it was Filipino custom for all the bride’s extended family to attend. So 60 people enjoyed the rehearsal dinner at our home.
Scripture tells us to practice hospitality.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, buffets for staff, 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. For example:
“Joey and Tammy need a place to live for a few days," our son said. "Could they stay here until they work something out?”
Josh had met Joey and Tammy—broke, homeless, probably using drugs—somewhere. Her grandmother had kicked them out. He 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.
For us hospitality has also meant welcoming 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 uncertainty. 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.
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 Debbie's soccer teammate spent many weekends with us when her parents were in conflict.
My daughter Michelle loves on people all the time. When her school 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 in mostly unstable circumstances with his drug addict, alcoholic mother, he brought alien customs to our home. The adjustments were shocking to him and to us.
As our son entered his teen years, his friends became our frequent guests as well. They usually showed respect to us on the surface, but they abused our hospitality: They stole from us, used 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? Who is welcome in your home?
C2015 Judy Douglass