Ironically, I find myself writing an article about hospitality in the middle of quarantine. My husband and I are recovering from COVID-19, and opening our home to others is not an option right now. Even without a positive test result, social distancing has become the standard for most of us. Hospitality feels like a thing of the past–a nice idea that became an impossibility with the onslaught of a worldwide pandemic. Here's the thing though–genuine, biblical hospitality is far less dependent on our ability to host and feed people than we might think.
Not long before 2020–and all the changes it brought–my family had been working through changing our conceptions of hospitality to better align with biblical hospitality. We were convicted of our failure in this area, praying for opportunities to open our hearts and our home to those around us. There were years when hospitality was only a carefully curated activity that served my perfectionism and desire for approval. After all, we live in the age of Pinterest and Instagram–nothing is worthy unless it's picture-perfect. If I was going to invite someone into my home, every corner needed to be spotless, every room needed to be expertly but comfortably styled, all food had to be made from scratch, and everyone in the family needed to look and act their best. I needed people to like us, and I needed to make a good impression. I had flipped a good thing on its head, turning it into yet another idol for me to place my identity in. At some point, I also swung in the opposite direction, convinced that hospitality was a forced, fake activity–far too much effort for people who are just trying to "keep it real." I decided I didn't have time for the inconvenience, and my efforts for hospitality basically came to an end. The truth is, both of these mindsets are equally self-serving. My pride was the motivation behind both my perfectionism and my laziness.
Understanding the why of Biblical hospitality is the first step to replacing a self-serving attitude about this principle. Mark 12:30-31 tells us the two basic commands for the Christian: love God and love others. Biblical hospitality is not about recipes, social skills, or on-trend d√©cor; it is simply about obeying the command to love others. When loving God and loving others is our motivation for hospitality, we free ourselves from leaning into selfish pursuits. We free ourselves from both perfectionism and laziness.
Right now, quarantines and social distancing are changing our traditional ideas of hospitality. The practical application of being hospitable will continue to vary by culture, necessity, and life season; but the biblical principles behind it remain the same–love God and love others. Ask God for eyes to see those around you, and find ways to love them. As believers, we can open our hearts–and, when possible, our homes–to others, seeing it as a means for biblical community, discipleship, and evangelism.
The body of Christ was designed for community. In the book of Acts, we see Paul being welcomed into the homes of believers as he traveled. Throughout the New Testament, we see believers opening their homes to the church for fellowship and edification. That is the beauty of the body of Christ–whatever our earthly state, there is always home, family, and belonging to be found with other believers. We are called to covenant community with each other–loveable or unlovable, convenient or inconvenient, in celebration or in sorrow. What better place to know and be known by fellow believers than in each other's normal lives? It is there, in the middle of life's ups and downs, that we have the joy of seeing how true gospel-living manifests itself in the life of the Christ-follower. It is there that we learn how to pray for one another, bear each other's burdens, and love one another in spite of our differences.
When believers practice hospitality for the purpose of loving God and others, a natural by-product is growing together in knowledge of God and His Word. Discipleship becomes second nature, and conversations organically bend toward mutual growth in Scripture. The call to make disciples is not optional for those who are in Christ (Matthew 28:19); and while mentoring relationships take a lot of work, the opening of our hearts and homes in biblical hospitality will foster an environment for discipleship opportunities to more easily take root and grow.
This sort of environment is not only beneficial for growth between believers but also as an effective tool for evangelism. Befriending our unbelieving neighbors, acquaintances, and coworkers in normal life situations can draw them to the glorious gospel in ways that a cold invitation to church from a stranger cannot. Inviting an unbeliever into your life gives them a front-row seat to see how the gospel changes regular, real, sinful people. What an opportunity to share the light of Christ with a dark world!
In all these things–community, discipleship, and evangelism–we find that a biblically hospitable heart is what opens doors to those around us, to those we have been called to love. Practically speaking, this can certainly look like using our homes to host gatherings and prepare meals; but it can also look like meeting at a coffee shop, checking in with a text, sending groceries or meals through a delivery service, grabbing lunch together, praying together, worshiping together, joining Bible studies and discipleship groups (in person or virtually), offering childcare, writing notes of encouragement, meeting up for playdates, completing household tasks together–basically, living out real life together, seeing every moment as a gospel opportunity to grow with others in the knowledge of God and His Word.
Whatever this year holds, whatever it allows or doesn't allow–may believers everywhere seek out everyday, ordinary opportunities to love God by loving others well.
Prayers for the Home Verse Cards from The Daily Grace Co.
Daily Grace Podcast Ep. 5 Opening Your Heart & Home
Daily Grace Podcast Ep. 91 Food and Fellowship