Hospitality can include almost anything—hiking, progressive dinners, movie nights—when we’re motivated by a love for strangers and each other.
Hopefully, in light of the REFRESH sermon series, we have all found the need for and motivation to identify negative patterns in our technology usage—and are seeking to confront them. But if we take away (or at least minimize) technology, with what do we replace it? Surely, there are books and exercise, family dinners and long forgotten hobbies whose tools have been gathering dust. But may I put in a plug for hospitality?
Hospitality. Just the word evokes shudders, even cold sweats in some. Visions of out-of-town guests overstaying their welcome, four-course dinners with mountains of dishes, and/or the dreaded task of cleaning and tidying up all the stuff we think we need but have no idea what to do with come to mind. But hospitality is a biblical command, not just for those who possess this spiritual gift, but for each and every Christian. Just one of the many passages which support this is Romans 12:9-21, in which Paul lists several injunctions for Christian living, including hospitality.
If hospitality is for everyone, perhaps it is prudent to understand what biblical hospitality is and why God commands it. The Greek word translated hospitality in the New Testament is philoxenia, which literally means “love of strangers.” In its most basic form, it is the kind of love Jesus talks about in his parable of separating the sheep from the goats—feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned (Matthew 25:31-46). Clearly, civic action falls under the category of Christian hospitality, as does shoveling for an elderly neighbor or taking a meal to a sick co-worker. Jesus also indicated, in a sermonette he gave to a dinner host, that true hospitality is not about having a good time or showing off to others (Luke 14:12-14). And Paul, in the aforementioned verses, includes even our enemies in the list of those who should receive blessing from us (Romans 12:17-21). It is, as the beginning of that chapter says, part of our “spiritual worship.”
But more often than not, we associate hospitality with having friends and family into our home. Is there any biblical justification for this viewpoint? The answer is a resounding yes! Jesus said the world would know who his followers were by our love for one another (John 13:25). Paul encouraged believers to “do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10, emphasis added). And Peter instructed, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (I Peter 4:8-9).
I find it interesting that the verses that mention hospitality (or describe it without directly naming it) are all couched in the context of living in community. Alongside commands for hospitality are injunctions to be like-minded, to live in peace, to forgive, to consider others more highly than ourselves. They are also accompanied with exhortations to not give up, to not grow weary, to not complain. God obviously knew that human nature would incline toward finding excuses to not practice hospitality—I’m too busy, too tired, it’s too much work, I don’t have a big enough home or nice enough dishes, etc.
So if we know we should practice hospitality, and if we are aware that we’re likely to find excuses to not practice it; if we’re actively trying to combat a technology-induced isolation and are trying to make fellowship and hospitality a habitual practice, where do we begin? A few of us on the All Things New team have compiled a guide of practical and creative ways we have implemented hospitality in our own lives. Hopefully, these examples will be a starting point, sparking your own thoughts on ways to practice hospitality. The rewards will be twofold: enriched relationships here and eternal rewards in heaven. — Aimee Fuhrman
Tina Wilson: Summitview’s tech series comes in one of my least favorite months of the year. February still feels cold most days and dark comes early. It’s easy to want to do nothing more than curl up on the couch with a blanket and binge on Netflix. And it can seem like a hard time to connect with my neighbors (who I’m fairly sure are spending their evenings in similar ways).
In light of all these things, our small group decided that February was the perfect month to schedule a progressive dinner with our neighbors.
As a small group, we’ve been fairly successful at holding outdoor activities in our neighborhood during the summer and fall. And those are great opportunities for fun and mingling. But we wanted to move from just doing activities outside with large groups to actually inviting people into our homes.
Since our small group is made up of three families, we each picked another family from our neighborhood to invite. On a Sunday afternoon last February, we all met at the first house for appetizers. After about 45 minutes of grazing and chatting, we threw our coats and boots on and headed down the street to the next house where we warmed up with soup and bread and more conversation. After another 45 minutes, we suited up once more and headed to the last house for dessert.
Changing houses allowed us to mix and mingle more than if we all sat at one table the whole evening. At each home, different people interacted, kids played with different sets of toys, and our neighbors got to see what the inside of our homes look like.
When we move indoors with fewer people, there is an unspoken invitation to slow down and connect. A barrier is removed when our neighbors see inside our homes, when they are invited to sit on the couch, when they see the art and photos on our walls. When we welcome others inside, we are extending hospitality and inviting deeper conversation and connections. And that is definitely worth giving up a night of Netflix and braving the February cold for.
Stephanie Carney: In my current season of life, blank space is more like a hazy memory of bygone days. I miss Mayberry. Yet I am passionate about creating community and gathering people around me. My bandwidth does not allow me the space to do exactly what I dream of doing (more parties, more themed gatherings, lots of creative offerings to provide respite and tasty food). But I can do something, and one of these somethings involves movies. I love movies and I watch a lot of them. So, I host “Ladies’ Night In” movie nights.
I pick a movie (sometimes seasonal, sometimes just because), pick an evening, and invite a group of people. Food is always involved. I have served complete dinners, thematically connected to the movie if possible (An Italian meal for Letters to Juliet, etc.). Other times, it’s appetizers and desserts. I love to cook, but I also rely heavily on “catering by Trader Joe’s,” and those evenings have been just as lovely.
I used to hesitate on doing this sort of thing because what if no one came? What if only one person came? This doesn’t bother me anymore. I set my expectation that however many people come is exactly the right number for that evening. I create a place to gather—that is my job. I trust that God will use my offering, even with this simple and light-hearted medium. And I feel he has.
Aimee Fuhrman: Over the years, my husband, Eric, and I have hosted countless individuals and families into our home in a myriad of capacities. Having grown up in homes that instilled this pattern, it seemed as natural as breathing to us. But over the years, I wondered why so few others had the same habit. One year I took it upon myself to “find out.”
What I discovered was that while most people enjoy the fellowship netted by hospitality, many just cannot get over the hurdle of “at my house.” A lot of people feel their place is too small or not nice enough, or they felt embarrassed or invaded in some way.
If that is you, take heart! You can practice hospitality OUTSIDE the home.
Yes, it’s true. A good portion of hospitality is putting out an invitation for a gathering that facilitates fellowship—and that can happen anywhere!
Consider inviting others to join you at a restaurant for a meal or a coffee shop or pub for a drink. How about getting together a group for bowling, pool, or a movie? (We do this for our kids; why not adults or families, too?) And our fair state offers plenty of options for hosting out-of-doors. We’ve hosted backyard BBQs (still at our house, but less limited on space), had people meet us at our neighborhood pool, and even asked people to meet us at a local park. (Stay-at-home moms of small children have this one mastered, but change the time to a weekend or evening and everyone can enjoy a picnic in the park!) We’ve also invited people to go hiking, biking, skiing, boating, camping and cabining with us.
All of these ideas take place outside the home (and usually involve each family bringing their own food) which eliminates the pressure to clean the house and fix a nice meal; plus paper plates mean no clean up (which, by the way, is perfectly fine when hospitality does take place inside the home). The important thing to remember is that hospitality is not about being perfect or even fancy; it’s not about putting on a show or looking good. True biblical hospitality is about showing God’s love to others by inviting them to do life with you and by making them feel comfortable
And that can happen anywhere.