Hospitality is a BIG DEAL. Some people say they don't have that gift, and maybe they don't, but it doesn't mean we shouldn't all practice it. I read an interesting and convicting article from Max Lucado in this month's edition of HomeLife Magazine entitled "The Beauty of Table Service". Lucado remarks that in this fast and efficient society, we've lost our personal touch. We're set up for isolation. We wear earbuds when we exercise, communicate with email and texts, and enter/exit our homes with gates and garage-door openers. He says that our mantra is: "I leave you alone. You leave me alone."
I know and live out the fact that hospitality is a strong gift of mine. I'm thrilled to have been blessed with the ability to bake bread, clean a mean toilet [hey, that's hospitable], and always have an open door to friends and strangers alike. However, sometimes I don't feel like being that way. When we lived in Atlanta, I never once met my neighbors. I stayed in my house with all 3 locks tightly shut on my door. I never went outside, except to walk to my car, and was kind of nervous about making eye contact with passersby. I think we can all relate to the fact that it's easy to open our home to friends and family but we aren't always looking to fill empty seats at our table with strangers.
Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:13 [NIV]
I don't think I'm being given a choice when I read that verse. In the aforementioned article Lucado says that basically as long as you have a front door and some peanut butter you can show some hospitality! Hospitality is an ability of the heart, not an ability in the kitchen or in home decor. You might want to run your vacuum and dust your mini blinds once in a while, though. I like this quote: When you open your door to someone, you are sending this message: "You matter to me and to God." You may think you are saying, "Come over for a visit." But what your guest hears is, "I'm worth the effort."
Did you know that hospitality and hospital come from the same Latin word? They both lead to healing.
What would happen if the church encouraged hospitality? I'm talking about real, come-as-you-are, open armed acceptance of all people, meeting them right where they are. Does your church do this? I've been a part of a couple who do. Two out of more than ten isn't really a good percentage though.
I'm beginning to think that this lack of love is due to a cultural shift within the church, one that stems from backing away from a view of the home and its importance in sharing Christ. A lot of ministers think that their church needs to be all things to all people when only Christ can do that. The church doesn't have to have a million programs going on when all people really need is love. The people within a church need to be encouraged and equipped to be hospitable. Instead of thinking we need to get so-and-so in church, maybe we just need to have them over for s'mores in the backyard. There are certain needs that the church can't meet without the home. The home is essential to showing our world that we mean what we say, that we're living out what we've preaching on Sunday morning. We all know people who never would have come to church if not for the hospitality of a friend.
To the church, I say if you want to balance your budget, show love. If you want to fill your pews, show love. If you want to reach your community, you county, your country, your world...show love. This is how we can truly "heal" our coworkers, neighbors, and friends. In the end, it isn't going to matter how many people were in the service this week or if the such-and-such budget is a little bit in the red. I understand that all of those things need to work together so that the church can go on as an operation day to day, but those things aren't the main thing. The church is no substitute for the home. Most people will accept an invitation to your dinner table before they accept one to your spire-weilding brick building.
The believers met together in the Temple every day. They ate together in their homes, happy to share their food with joyful hearts. Acts 2:46, NCV
Every day in the Temple and in people's homes they continued teaching the people and telling the Good News- that Jesus is the Christ. Acts 5:42, NCV
To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer...and to the church in your house. Philemon vv. 1-2, NKJV
Greet Priscilla and Aquila...the church that is in their house. Romans 16:3,5, NKJV
...be given to hospitality... I Tim. 3:2, KJV
I encourage you to invite some people over for dinner. Not your best friends or your cousin and his new girlfriend. Do you have a neighbor that was recently laid off? Is there a young couple that needs some "family" away from their own? As someone who has been given the opportunity to receive hospitality, I want to be a giver of that same love. I want to challenge you [and myself] to open your door to uncommon community and open your table to ministry.
To those of you who are like me, who are blessed and cursed with the "gift" of hospitality, we need to get over the notion that everything has to be perfect. No one cares of you haven't pulled the weeds up the walkway. The only person who sees that spec of dust behind the recliner up against the base board, just behind the shadow of the lamp is YOU. :) Most people don't care if you're serving filet minon, spaghetti, or Chinese takeout. It's just nice to have fellowship. And if you're like me, I know you would NEVER speak a negative word about someone else's dusty baseboards, so you can be assured that no one's going to talk about you either. Don't let your need to have everything "just so" keep you from ever getting around to having so-and-so over for supper. You will be blessed when you let that stuff go and invite your neighbor with the 6 kids over anyway. Besides, after the company leaves you're going to have to go and put everything back in its little place all over again.
"Something holy happens around a dinner table that will never happen in a sanctuary. In a church auditorium you see the backs of heads. Around the table you see the expressions on faces. In the auditorium one person speaks; around the table everyone has a voice. Church services are on the clock. Around the table there is time to talk." -Lucado