As I crawled around my living room floor on my hands and knees, cleaning up the baby books, miscellaneous dirty socks, and random items that had found their way to the ground, I began grumbling to myself.
Late. This means dinner is delayed. Conversation is delayed. Bath time is delayed. Bed time is delayed. Cleaning up is delayed. Sleep is delayed. They’re late.
Then another voice popped into my head.
Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
This wasn’t the first time that 1 Peter 4:9 popped into my head as I made the final mad dash around the house and kitchen in anticipation of dinner guests.
As a pastor’s family, we knew that showing hospitality to others was something we were absolutely called to do according to 1 Timothy 3:2, and as the wife, I was directly involved in helping my husband live out this calling. But this isn’t something pastors alone are asked to do. All believers are called to show hospitality to one another, to those inside and outside of the body of Christ, because of the great hospitality that Jesus has shown us when he came to earth on a mission to provide for us the costly freedom from sin and the gift of eternal life. And there is a reason 1 Peter 4:9 ends with the phrase without grumbling.
Simply put, hospitality is a sacrifice. I believe God designed it to be that way because it is a tool he created as a means to sanctify us. And since hospitality is a tool to sanctify us, it’s something we can be easily tempted to grumble about. The husband who has to work all day and can’t help get the house cleaned up. Your own hungry children who are pulling at your ankles as you attempt to make a complete meal. The mess of making food. The mountain of dirty dishes. The monetary cost. These are all things I find myself complaining about.
But something changed the way I looked at hospitality in the last year. That something was an older couple at church who often opened their home to the younger families, like ours. They were good at planning ahead. They were generous with what they gave us, both in food and thoughtful presents. They showed us so much grace that each time my husband and I left their home, we would look at each other in amazement and say, “We don’t deserve this.” They were pouring out grace upon grace on us, and they did the same with many younger adults at our church.
As I have had the great opportunity to observe this couple over the last year, my husband and I have gleaned much wisdom from them. We have tried to incorporate some of what they do into how we open our home to others now.
If loving Jesus is not your motivation for opening those front doors and filling hungry bellies, you won’t be able to do it without grumbling. The more your focus is on Christ in the planning, the meal, and the cleanup, the less you will grumble because you will realize there isn’t much of anything to grumble about at all!
And there really is a blessing in being hospitable to others. I have recently been able to hear about the ways God has been working in the lives of people around me just by sitting at our dinner table with them. These are things I could never learn during a quick hello on a Sunday morning at church. God is a God of community. We see this in his triune nature. Since we are made in that same image, we crave community in ways we don’t even understand until we are in community, living it out the way Christ has called us to.
Sitting in front of the T.V. and zoning out during a football game isn’t meaningful fellowship. Instead, deep fellowship calls for intentionality—something that often looks different from the rest of culture. Asking specific questions to probe the hearts of friends is pursuing true fellowship. Spending time in Scripture or in prayer is pursuing true fellowship. What makes this different? Your relationship with Jesus is in view. This is the whole reason Jesus ate meals with people. Sure, a celebration or a sporting event can be a means to getting together, but biblical fellowship can include so much more.
Planning something like a short teaching or setting aside time to pray with your guests may feel awkward and forced, but let me tell you what a blessing it has been in our families when we spend time with others who have done this very thing for us! This is what true fellowship is about! Being able to unwind from a stressful week through the Word and prayer with a group of friends truly is one of the greatest remedies for a tired soul. Jesus knows this, and again, this is why he has asked us to show hospitality to one another.
Remember the thousands that came to hear Jesus teach? Remember how frantic the disciples were about finding them food? And remember how calm Jesus was? He provided meals for thousands through one little boy’s lunch. He is still providing through small means today.
Be generous with the food you provide for your friends. God is the one calling you to do this. He will surely provide the means to do so!
It can often feel intimidating for singles or young couples without children to invite families into their homes, but God wants his whole family to be in fellowship with one another! He has designed us to gain wisdom and insight from different people and different generations. We miss out on the fullness of sanctification when we segregate ourselves into groups that reflect only ourselves and our particular season of life.
For those who do not have children yet, a very practical way to show your love for families and their children is to keep a small box of toys tucked away in a closet or a few movies on hand for kids to enjoy when they come over. I know that if someone did this for my child when we were invited over, my heart would be overflowing with gratefulness towards them!
When you get a bunch of humans in the same room, (hopefully) having a good time, something is bound to get spilled. A mess is inevitably going to happen. Do not freak out. This is perhaps one of the best opportunities to show people that they are more important than things. Ask God to help you overcome a materialistic heart and value the relationships you are cultivating over a pristine carpet or a clean kitchen. I guarantee you that when we get to those streets of gold and are worshipping at the feet of our Savior, we will not even remember the juice that never came out of the living room carpet.
I’ve been to homes where the hosts panic about children playing with toys in the living room, or about a taco being dropped in the kitchen. We often fear going to their houses. I pray that my home would be a place people aren’t fearful of getting messy in, whether spiritually, emotionally, or even physically.
I often call our tiny home a doll house. It is quite small—750 square feet, to be exact. We can recall many great nights we have had in this place, sometimes packed with 20 or 30 people, all getting to know one another and laughing together in our little house. It’s only in America that we think a prerequisite for hospitality includes a two-car garage, a fenced backyard, and an island in the kitchen. Hospitality is really about making more room in your heart, schedule, and lives for those around you; it has much less to do with the space available in your home.
Since we have had to learn how to be hospitable in a small space, when buying furniture we try to think about others and what is most practical for having people in our home. For example, we recently purchased a sleeper couch. It’s not the most trendy couch out there, but if a friend in need is looking for a place to stay, we now have a bed available. And a few years ago for Christmas we asked for help purchasing a new table that can fold down to be stored or expanded to seat six (or more). These have been some of the most helpful things we have invested in as a family to make our home a place that is welcoming to others.
Planning ahead, both with schedules, meals, and activities, is something that takes discipline. I believe this is a discipline the Lord wants us to grow in. To be hospitable, one of the most important areas to plan is with our schedules. Inviting others into our homes won’t just happen. Work will get in the way. Unplanned meetings will demand attention. Extended family plans will pop up. And so, to cultivate a hospitable life, we try to sit down on Sunday nights as a family and map out the next week’s schedule, including which night we are going to invite someone over. If we didn’t plan ahead this way, we would never have anyone over! We also keep a list of people we want to have over next to our calendar so that when the time comes to invite people over we know who to call.
Remembering how much Jesus gave us in order to provide a place for us in his family and eternal home is motivation enough for us to show that same love toward others. And as we prayerfully seek to show love to those around us, we can partner with him in the work of hospitality!
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