Welcome to Hospitality Week, here on the blog! I hope over the next few days to discuss varying styles of hospitality, with the goal of illustrating that we are all called to hospitality, and that we can all be good at some form of it.
Karen Ehman has writtten an excellent book, called Life That Says Welcome. In it, she discusses the Biblical call to hospitality. The why, the how, the precedent behind God’s design that we open our homes for one another, and share our tables. Scripture is clear on the important call to hospitality. Acts 2 describes the response to the Gospel, as one which should prompt our hearts to open toward others. In Acts, we see the formation of a brand-New Testament church, with believers seeking to honor God in their relationships with one another. And interestingly, one of the first fruits to be borne, is that of hospitality:
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.
Do you find this kind of Acts 2 hospitality strenuous?
Admittedly, I do. I am challenged with a definition of hospitality that has long haunted me. One that demands formal invitations and prepared meals and a plan. I have never been good at long-range planning, so formalities are not my strength. I am easily stressed by the chaos of crowds, so how do I exert a welcoming spirit despite my less-than-perfect wiring?
In reading Acts 2 however, and seeing it fleshed out in Ehman’s book, it struck me that I may not have assessed the call to hospitality with enough breadth, with enough grace, and have been wrestling with feelings of failure, due to a too-narrow definition of what hospitality looks like fleshed out in my life.
Ehman expounds on the very concerns I have, giving space for the definition of hospitality to grow and to evolve. Hospitality she states, can be of two kinds: in-home and out-of-home. And both functioning together with intention, are what provide communities with an optimal sense of welcome.
In-Home: In-home hospitality involves opening our doors, setting out extra dishes,and preparing for additional mouths to feed. It is the invitation to life in the home, lending itself to an intimacy that is easiest found by breaking down barriers of space and physical boundaries. It is the cup of cold water (or coffee or tea) prepared to provide rest for the soul of another.
Out-of-Home: Out-of-Home hospitality Ehman maintains, is every bit as necessary and personal as in-home hospitality, but involves work beyond the front door. Out-of-home hospitality looks like welcoming new neighbors, visiting those who are lonely, preparing meals for friends, and looking out for the physical and emotional needs of others and seeking to meet those “felt” needs.
All of us Ehman, maintains, are called to hospitality, but this definition can be as broad as our individuality allows it to be. And it can change with the seasons of our experience.
For example, for nearly 9 years we have lived in our neighborhood. And in the course of that time, we have had a revolving door of small children in and out of our home, nearly daily. Perhaps because of this, we have not exerted as much formal hospitality as those might who live in a more isolated setting. Keeping our home occupied has never been difficult. However, the last few months have seen several of our closest neighbors move out of state, and so we have been filling the void with more formal invitations to our home. Our season has changed and with it, our expression of hospitality.
But isn’t this life? God’s commands are firm and resolute. But with His desire for our obedience to His will, also comes His hand of sovereignty. And as His plans shift our circumstances, grace is there to meet the interpretation. So while His call to hospitality does not shift, the expression might vary, depending on our season.
Do you find Ehman’s in-home/out-home definition of hospitality encouraging?
Can you define your area of strength in hospitality?
Can you think of one thing you can do this week to demonstrate a hospitable spirit to others?