Once, during a church barbecue at our house, my husband found me in an upstairs bedroom, hiding from our guests. Moments before, in an effort to find a topic that I might have in common with my fellow church goers, I had blurted out something really strange that just didn’t come out right. I attempted to graciously excuse myself and hightailed it out of there.
I think of this story fairly often because, honestly, one of my biggest weaknesses is not enjoying small talk and, more specifically, despising moments like this. It happened probably five years ago, and yet I remember it as if it were yesterday.
And do you know what? I would do it all over again.
Because I have come to firmly believe that no matter how conversationally inept or socially awkward we may be, no matter how tiny our home or how lousy the cooking, hospitality is the heart of Christian living.
Whether I find myself putting my foot in my mouth, burning the brownies and being forced to serve canned fruit, or even just passing up an afternoon of relaxing on the couch, I’ve found that the losses pale in comparison to what we gain spiritually when we invite others into our homes.
Make Hospitality Simple, Not a Production
The reality of missionary life with a large family, homeschooling and the many other things that consume our days means I have to be realistic with what we can handle. But one of my very favorite (and easy!) ways to welcome others into our home is through our once-a-week English discussion group.
I used to dread it, especially when we had a new baby in our family. My evenings were often spent gearing up for a longer night with a nursing baby, knowing that I would be up at least once or twice to change a diaper or put a little one back to bed. English class meant I would be getting to bed at a later hour and might miss a little more sleep.
But what I didn’t realize was what a blessing those evenings — and especially those people — would become to me.
I thought we were the ones ministering to them, but in reality, they became our friends and even our surrogate family when we were so many miles from home. (And I learned that a good nap the next day often made up for any missed sleep the night before.)
The way we do English class is very simple. We open our home. Sometimes we might provide a simple dessert, and we always have a wooden box of various teas on hand. We spread plain, ceramic mugs on a serving tray and boil a pot of water in our electric kettle. That’s it!
Then we all sit around our coffee table, speaking English and talking about current events, upcoming holidays and everything in between. This weekly ritual is no longer a burden to me but actually the highlight of my week.
A Kingdom of Hospitality
God’s Kingdom is full of these stories — stories of how He uses simple hospitality to spread His name and bless his people.
Recently, I heard Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s testimony of welcoming others. She grew up in a family that hosted many people from all walks of life. There are still people who show up to her family home (where her parents no longer live) and tell the current, non-Christian resident how they came to know Christ right there in that house.
Another powerful testimony comes from Rosaria Butterfield. She was a former professor of queer theory and an outspoken opponent to Christian ministries. A local pastor invited her into his home where he and his wife had many wonderful conversations with her, and they became unlikely friends.
Through this friendship the Lord drew Rosaria to Himself, and she is now a strong believer. She encourages Christians to open their homes as a powerful way to show Christ’s love in a tangible way.
As I think of the hundreds of people who have filed through our home, the many meals served and teas poured, I am so grateful that we risked the inconvenience and expense of it all.
I may walk away from guests feeling worn out and with a sink full of dirty dishes, but I know in my soul that it’s all worth it.
The opportunities to sit with people and to listen as they open up about their troubled marriage, to proclaim the life-giving hope of Jesus Christ or to share how He has radically transformed our lives and eternity makes every meal prepared, every cup filled and every dish washed more than worth it.
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” 1 Peter 4:8-9
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