Last week I wrote a bit about hospitality in the context of spiritual gifts. This week I’m reading Sam Allberry’s book 7 Myths about Singleness, and he makes several good comments about Christian family and how that relates to our responsibility for hospitality:
“We’re a body [Romans 12:4-5]. We belong to one another… We’re invested in one another, and therefore I need to know what the Christian life is like for you in your situation, and you need to know what it’s like for me in mine… [It] shows me that as a single person, I have a stake in the health of the marriages in my church family. And those who are married have a stake in the health of my singleness. It’s part of what belonging to one another involves” (15).
“We may well have been blessed by our biological, nuclear family… This is a precious gift and one that you have solemn responsibilities toward. But it is not your only kind of family, or the only set of people to whom you owe such a significant amount. If you’re a Christian, the fellowship to which you belong is your family too. And while that might feel like it creates a tension or competition, the opposite is meant to be the case. These two types of family are designed to be overlapping and interlocking in a way that helps each to flourish in a way that wouldn’t otherwise be the case” (69).
“Sometimes it’s actually not making a fuss over a visitor that can make them feel more special and at home. They’re not being given a specially vetted version of family life; they’re being included in the real deal, warts and all… Too often what we’re really doing is not hospitality but entertaining. We’re putting on a good show. We’re showing someone the Instagram version of our home life rather than the actual version of it. A sign that this is the case is that hospitality becomes infrequent and extravagant. But in the Bible, hospitality is opening up our real lives to others (often and especially the stranger) and inviting them in. You don’t technically need a physical space to invite people into… It is as much about doing life with others, wherever and however we happen to do it” (72).
“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling (1 Pet. 4:9)… Peter is not so much telling us to do a certain kind of thing but to be a certain kind of person: someone who is willing and eager to share life and home with others. It is even important enough to be a qualification for anyone in church leadership [1 Tim. 3:2-3]… I have seen people disqualified from church leadership because of drunkenness and marital infidelity, but I’ve never heard of hospitality even being considered in a would-be pastor” (73).
I appreciate the reminder that hospitality is not the same as entertaining. Entertaining is only one form of hospitality. Hospitality could just as easily take the form of inviting a friend to join you for lunch at Taco Bell, taking a walk together in the park, watching the kids’ sporting events together, or thousands of other examples. It’s more about sharing together in the routine things of life and faith than planning special events and extravagant dinners.
We’ve been misled by some who teach that hospitality is a spiritual gift only exercised by a few. Rather it is commanded of all Christians to be welcoming of others and to truly love one another. The Greek word for hospitality literally translates as “loving strangers.” Yes, there are some people who are more gifted at planning for and hosting guests, but none of us are let off the hook for loving others because “I don’t have the gift.” All of us, married and single alike, would benefit from building friendships that simply share life together outside of the established schedule of the church.
“Let love be genuine… Love one another with brotherly affection… Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality… Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly…” (Romans 12:9-16 ESV).
“So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8).
© 2019 Dawn Rutan. Image copyright free from pixabay.com. The opinions stated do not necessarily reflect the views of my church or employer.