When we moved overseas, we began to taste how generous hospitality can be. Sitting on drab floor cushions in sparsely-furnished homes, we were welcomed into the lives of the Roma of Eastern Europe. Roma live hand-to-mouth, and even then, what they make today is often not enough for their meals tomorrow. Despite our protests and attempts to visit without sharing a meal, they had joy and honor in feeding us as their guests. Their generosity humbled us every time.
Receiving such sacrifices convicted us of our selfishness. I began to see how closely I held what we had. I wasn’t just hoarding the food we had; I was also hoarding our space, our time, and our gifts. God was teaching me that everything I had belonged to him and was not mine to be accumulated for my family alone.
But more than stirring a desire to imitate the Roma’s welcoming hospitality, I realized how the Christian’s hospitality has a bigger purpose: to preach the gospel of Christ who poured out everything for us.
I’d love it if I was a natural hostess who always had a clean house, delicious meals, and cooperative children. My husband and I are introverts, our house gets messy more quickly than we can clean it, and it often feels scary to give others an up-close look at our sinful family. Opening our home can take a lot out of not just me but the whole family. If it’s hard, why practice it?
Hospitality is biblical.
We are commanded to practice hospitality. Both Titus and 1 Timothy name hospitality as one of the requirements for a pastor, but elsewhere we see hospitality commanded to others within the body of Christ. Moreover, our hospitality is supposed to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ: “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” (Rom. 12:13).
And we should not just offer hospitality to those we know, but also to people we’re unfamiliar with: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers” (Heb. 13:2). Furthermore, the Bible is clear that how we open up our homes matters: “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Pet. 4:9).
Hospitality gives us opportunities to serve others.
Service is a tangible way of loving one another. When we serve, we are humbling ourselves and putting the needs and desires of another in front of our own (Phil. 2). Everyone in our family has opportunities to serve when we invite people into our space. My children have learned many lessons about taking care of the needs of others because of guests.
Jesus, our Creator and Lord, was the perfect example of a servant. He healed the sick, he fed the hungry, he poured himself out until he was exhausted. He “did not come to be served, but to serve,” and his ultimate service was when he gave “his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Serving is a way we can act like Christ and point others to him.
Hospitality helps us prioritize people over stuff.
It can be hard to let people into our home sometimes. Hospitality can come at a cost. When we have another family over, we often use our resources to feed them. My children have slept on the floor to allow overnight guests to use their beds. We have had messes left by guests that we have to clean up (including the time a toddler dumped out every one of my children’s Legos) and broken toys that we replace with our money or have to do without.
We have long had a family saying: “People are more important than things.” This is easy to say but hard to actually believe in our hearts because of our selfish flesh. The things we own are temporary, but people have eternal souls and bear God’s image. When we have people in our home, we try to remember the significance of our stuff pales in comparison to the significance of our guests (Luke 12:15; Matt. 625-34).
Hospitality allows us to deepen discipleship relationships.
Many of the people we have over are members of our church and have covenanted with us to encourage one another in our faith. A different facet of discipleship is caught in our home when people get to watch our family interact with each other, deepening what is taught when we study the Bible and pray together. Real life happens in our home amongst our family, and welcoming people into it is the best way to give insight into how our family functions, in all the messy ways.
Inviting people into our home means that we cannot so easily hide our lives behind a facade presented on Sunday morning, but rather those close to us can see what we look like throughout the week and how we are trying, even as we stumble and falter, to follow Christ as a family.
Our children are also benefactors of this. Their relationships with people are strengthened when we have them in our home, allowing opportunities for our children to grow and learn from others as well. They also feel more at home within our church family because of how many people they’ve eaten meals and talked with at the dinner table.
Hospitality provides the time and space to display and preach the gospel.
Hospitality is a means to display the gospel by using your home for the good of others. It is a way we can show what God has done and is doing in our lives. When we welcome others to our home, we have the opportunity to invite them to taste and see how good the Lord is.
Like most Christians, we thank God before we eat for providing food to enjoy and sustain our bodies. We want to always remember that every good gift comes from him and that he alone is our provider. Remembering that God has provided our daily bread should turn our hearts to his ultimate provision: The broken body and spilled blood of Christ.
And that’s one of the sweetest parts of opening up our home: sharing testimonies about the Lord’s saving grace in our lives. We have heard stories about God’s faithfulness countless times while at our dining room table or in our living room. I am reminded that my salvation is a “gift of God, not a result of works” (Ephesians 2:8-9). My children have heard how God brought people from all stages and walks of life to him. They’ve also watched us practice evangelism in our house around our normal activities.
My family has been changed by welcoming others into our home. We’re still having our sin revealed to us and being sanctified through our attempts at hospitality, but we’ve settled into a happy family rhythm that includes people who don’t share our last name. Our kids regularly think of people who we need to have over and how we might serve them. It isn’t always easy, even after having hundreds of people in our home, but it is always worth it.