Hospitality—a Spiritual Practice
As the pandemic is hopefully drawing to a close, I would like to take the time to talk about hospitality—a spiritual practice that I think is frequently misunderstood. The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews encourages us to “not forget to show hospitality toward strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (Heb 13:2 NIV). Hospitality was crucial to the time frame of this letter because travelers depended on it. While there may have been inns and some places to stay in many of the larger cities, most of the smaller villages and towns did not have such luxuries. Travelers and strangers usually depended on the kindness and hospitality of people living in those areas for protection (against the elements and other people—see Lot meeting the angels) and sustenance in a harsh and dangerous climate. Offering hospitality was an obligation and an honor.
Benefits of Hospitality
Today, we do not live in quite the same conditions as ancient Israel. It is easy for most of us to get food at a convenient location and to find shelter. Yet, there is still a need for hospitality. Acts of hospitality can make strangers, guests, and friends feel like they are welcome in our lives. Acts of hospitality can help us demonstrate God’s love for others in a practical way and can open doors through which others can meet God. Acts of hospitality can be the bridge between cultures and help to alleviate misunderstandings and fear.
I know that simply mentioning this make some of my acquaintances nervous. They argue that they do not have the “gift of hospitality.” They feel that their house, their family, their living situation, is not “good enough” to practice this. I will grant that some of us are better at this than others. I will grant that some of us have a natural affinity for opening our homes, sharing dinner, serving others in need, etc. However, this doesn’t mean that everybody else cannot practice this. Hospitality does not have to be complicated. It can be as simple as buying coffee for somebody at your local coffee shop or sharing cold bottles of water with people on a hot summer day. It can be a group project as well. One of my favorite group hospitality projects is when a group of us cook hotdogs at a local park and give them away.
I feel this mirrors the ministry of Jesus. He was always hanging out with people. People on the margins felt comfortable around him and challenged to change. He welcomed strangers and outcasts—remember Zacchaeus the chief tax collector? He was concerned with those who others tried to shut out and shut up—think of blind Bartimaeus. He told us that the Father was welcoming people who had wandered far away back into the family—see the Prodigal Son parable. He opened his life up to others and invited them into the kingdom. We can do the same.
Small Steps Create Impact
I would like to encourage you to consider expanding your practice of hospitality. It is not important that your house be in perfect shape to have somebody over. You do not have to have your life “more together” before you show others God’s love. The important thing is to open our lives up to others and show the love that God has demonstrated to us and that he has for them. You do not have to make huge changes all at once; small steps will make an enormous difference.
Grace and peace to you all.