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Hospitality is not optional

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Hospitality. I did not intend to have this subject 'in my face' these past few months. We are reading the book "The Gospel Comes with a House Key" by Rosaria Butterfield in the Facebook book club. Then, the reading plan for She Reads Truth for this month is called Making Room, a study of Biblical hospitality. Apparently God wants me to consider this topic and figure out how my life needs to better reflect His priorities in this area. 

Butterfield's book has challenged me in many areas, and I don't always agree with her. But she has challenged me to think outside the box about how to make hospitality a natural, regular and ordinary part of my life.  I have made some baby steps in living this out -- inviting a neighbor and other friends to join in the monthly ECC knitting group that meets at my house; reaching out to that neighbor in other practical ways now that she is down with a badly broken leg; and seeking to do more of my face-to-face meetings with people in my home rather than at Panera or Chick Fil-A.

She has also challenged us to consider how becoming hospitable on a regular basis could impact us - being ready to have people in my home whose moral, political and religious views differ markedly from ours, being ready to acknowledge my own selfishness and self-interests and simply making room in my schedule to DO this.

And then there is the She Reads Truth study.  It too is meddling with me in ways that make me even more uncomfortable. In this study, the authors simply bring together Scriptures that address particular aspects of hospitality each day - welcoming a neighbor, the poor, the self-righteous, our betrayers, widows and orphans, strangers, etc.  It is hard to deny the truth of the Scriptures when they are sitting there staring at me each morning. The fact that there are two delicious-looking recipes in the book as well (one for chocolate chip cookies!) does not make it any easier to accommodate.  I am convicted by my selfishness and lack of openness to share my space and time with others.

This morning's reading was on widows and orphans - timely for me, as my own mother (a recent widow) is considering a move to live near either me or one of my two brothers.  How will I make room for her in my life if she chooses to move here?  This WILL change my life in ways that I cannot yet foresee, I am sure. Am I open to what God is going to have to do in me and through me to care for her? Will I fight God on this, or lean into His Spirit to equip me and make me a willing servant?

And the larger question remains - how do we as Christians in a contentious society best reach out to meet and befriend others who are different from us?  Many of us have opportunities easily available - our kids' sports or music or other activities allow us to get to know lots of different kinds of people. Those of us in the workplace meet all sorts of people from all walks of life.  Strangely enough, knitting is providing me an avenue to get to know others, including an opportunity to begin inviting international students who knit or crochet to build friendships. God works in mysterious ways to open our eyes to the needs of the world around us.  He is pushing me to explore how to look outside my comfort zone, outside my Christian circle, to share His love with those who have no connection to Him - yet. 

A few statements in Rosaria Butterfield's book have really stuck with me and are motivating me to move forward even though I feel awkward and insecure:

"We live in a post-Christian world that is sick and tired of hearing from Christians. But who could argue with mercy-driven hospitality? What a potential witness Christians have, untapped and right here at our fingertips.......

Our post-Christian neighbors need to hear and see and taste and feel authentic Christianity, hospitality spreading from every Christian home that includes neighbors in prayer, food, freindship, childcare, dog walking and all the daily matters upon which friendships are built....

All around you, people hunger for the covenant of God to include them."

From, The Gospel Comes with a House Key pages 94-96

How am I ever going to be welcomed to share the gospel if I don't first begin to open my heart to those who hunger for new life? If sharing my home and my time is a way that I can do that, then I want to take the steps that will make that happen. God seems to be pulling me in this direction. The Hound of Heaven is not letting me go on this one.  He is my example of welcoming all into His Kingdom. And He is my strength to do so.

What does this look like for you? One thing that Butterfield's book has made clear to me is that hospitality is not a cookie cutter thing. Each of us will share our lives differently.  That is how it should be, as God has equipped each of us uniquely to serve Him. My example might spur you on, but I don't expect anyone to try to do it like me. I do believe that each of us has gifts to share, and people in our lives that hunger for new life, even if that is not immediately apparent. People DO need the Lord.  How will they hear unless we speak? And how can we speak unless we have someone to speak to?