At Work

Think Your House Isn’t Good Enough for Hospitality? Think Again.

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As I explore ideas related to hospitality, I’m constantly confronted with a healthy challenge: these ideas can’t remain concepts. I’ve got to put my hands and feet in action in order to show true hospitality.

It’s easy to avoid this challenge given the fears and concerns that befall us everyday, not to mention the myriad of excuses that pop up:

My house is smaller than I’d like it to be.

I’m hoping to make some changes to my flooring, walls, or furniture.

But I just live in an apartment (or even a dorm room).

“Once I update ____,” or, “Once I move into _____, then I’ll open up my home to others,” you may be thinking. I’ve had these thoughts, too.

None of these seeming deficiencies exclude or excuse us from the call of showing hospitality. The Bible does not state conditions like, “Only if you have a large dining room, a pool, or a nice patio.”

We are commanded to show hospitality “without grumbling” and to “seek” to do so with a persecution-like tenacity (1 Peter 4:9; Romans 12:13).

Less-than-ideal circumstances from which to host others are an opportunity rather than a roadblock. It’s amazing what can be done with small spaces or minimal funds.

Additionally, hospitality is not limited to the hosting of large gatherings. We all know the folks that have the ideal setup for hosting graduation parties, baby showers, and Thanksgiving dinner. Yet everyday hospitality begins with one or two guests—or a family.

Hospitality Beyond the House

I’ve recently begun to explore the concept of extending hospitality outside of the home. How can we help others feel at home when they are with us, wherever that may be?

This is certainly not an excuse to never open up your home—far from it. This is an exhortation to go beyond merely opening up your home to others. Make “home” exist wherever your presence resides, and invite others into it.

In order to make home wherever you are, hospitality cannot be viewed merely in terms of serving food or beverages within your own space, with which you are comfortable and most familiar. In a sense, you are the “expert” of your own home. You know where the bathroom is, which cushion on the couch sinks in a bit further, which cabinet houses the tea and coffee mugs.

However, extending Christian love does not remain within the bounds of what is comfortable. Much of what Jesus commands us to do is meant to stretch us and press us into his strength.

  • Think about Jesus’s life on earth. He said of himself, “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head,” yet he showed this sort of “traveling” hospitality to those with whom he came into contact (Matthew 8:20).
  • Consider how he engaged with Nicodemus, a Pharisee, whose questions he openly welcomed and thoroughly answered (John 3:1-21). Consider the Samaritan woman at the well with whom Jesus spoke of soul and spirit matters, offering her the living water (John 4:4-26).
  • Think of the many downcast—the least of the least—to whom he showed compassion, mercy, grace, and love. He continually touched the untouchable and loved the unlovable.

Christ is certainly the perfect example of love, for he is love itself (1 John 4:8). However, there may be other, more tangible examples all around you as well.

Just as Paul said to the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ,” (1 Corinthians 11:1). In a similar way, other believers can serve as models for us to emulate—those living out hospitality readily, wherever they are.

  • Take a moment to consider people that you enjoy being around. Do such individuals retain their pleasantness regardless of their physical setting?
  • Think about a friend with whom you feel “at home.” Isn’t there something about the way that he carries himself and how he interacts with you and makes you feel safe, comfortable, and cared for?

This is the sort of traveling hospitality that I’m talking about. While the opening up of house and table is certainly a tangible way to express hospitality, it can also be manifested in and through relationships—and in any variety of settings.

Start right here, right now, with what you have. If what you have is sufficient for you, it is sufficient to lovingly extend to others as well.

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  • Pete Smith

    I agree. Here is the definition I used for my doctoral dissertation on The Open Door of Christian Hospitality: “The spiritual grace of welcoming strangers into one’s community and social network, with the offering of food, shelter, protection and social interaction, with no concern for personal advantage or ambition.” It goes beyond the home to relationships.

    • Jessica

      Thank you for sharing this definition, Pete. I especially latch on to the last piece, “with no concern for personal advantage or ambition.” It reminds me of Kierkegaard’s exploration of how a work may truly be born of heavenly love, rather than love of self.

  • Tracy Earl Welliver

    Jessica Schaeffer, you are a young person with a wise mind and a compassionate heart. Very nice article.

    • Jessica

      Thank you, Tracy. I appreciate it.

  • Jessica

    I’m glad it was an encouragement to you, Audrey! May the Lord work mightily through you as you seek to be that warm, welcoming person to others.

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