Did you have a wedding gift list? Oh the joy. It’s particularly satisfying if you haven’t got two pennies to rub together. You get to go round a department store with one of those bar code guns (they’re probably not called guns) and scan to your heart’s content. You choose plates and bowls and pots and pans, and look forward to all the entertaining you’re going to do when you have a home that’s just yours. I remember hoping and praying that we’d have a really welcoming home, showing hospitality and blessing our community.
And this sort of happened. I’ve certainly got better at it over the years. And as I’ve learnt how to cook, and how to tidy up, I’ve also learnt that what really matters in hospitality is that you love people. That can be costly, but not in a monetary sense.
We are, as Christians, commanded to be hospitable. It’s one way we show God’s love to others. Since God is love and we are his ambassadors, it’s pretty important that we show hospitality. But you don’t have to take it from me:
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality. (Romans 12: 12-13)
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4:8-9)
It seems from these verses that hospitality isn’t an optional extra, for those who are really good at cooking and into that sort of thing. I don’t think, by the way, that you need your own home or your own kitchen or a dinner table to show hospitality, but since this is a parenting blog I’m assuming you do have somewhere to cook and eat food.
So going back to my enthusiasm as a newlywed – life has changed more than a little since then. Life got busy. My home got smaller, and the number of inhabitants got bigger. Now when people come through the front door, they have to trample past my children’s bedroom door. I can’t really expect them to come through the living room window (no… I really shouldn’t).
Plus, you know, I’m tired from feeding and looking after my children all day every day. Doesn’t that count as hospitality?
No. It doesn’t.
I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad, but I’ve noticed something about hospitality. We all find reasons not to do it. We all seem to think that we would do it under more suitable circumstances. When the children are older. Once we move that wall. When we get an oven*. Once I’ve had big clear-out. My home just isn’t welcoming enough. Nobody would enjoy coming here.
Can I suggest that we should all remember that we’re in a spiritual battle? Since we’re commanded to be hospitable, we can be sure that the Lord will use it for his glory. And therefore we can also expect that we’ll be tempted not to do it. So let’s fight that battle, instead of just surrendering to the inconveniences. It might be that you’ve had some hospitality disasters. In fact, this is pretty likely. But that’s OK. We pick ourselves up and fight on.
Also I’ve noticed that people on the receiving end of hospitality are rarely aware of our alleged shortcomings. If you think your house is too dark or too messy or too small or too full, it’s unlikely that the person coming round for a cuppa will think so too.
I was amazed to hear from a friend recently that she’s never thought that my living room was not very conducive to hospitality. I mean, really amazed. It just shows that my perception of my home is not the same as my guests’. (My living room, by the way, has nine walls.)
I remember another friend saying to me, “I either need to keep my flat tidier, or lower my standards of how tidy it needs to be before I invite my neighbour in.” I think she put it better than that but hopefully you see the point. If your house is too messy, then tidy it. If you can’t tidy it, then invite people over anyway.
Maybe you think your own family will feel neglected if you have people over. But let’s not underestimate how much our children will learn from seeing us love people, especially people who aren’t like us.
The Lord doesn’t make commands and then add, ‘when it’s convenient.’ He himself invites us to a feast – was it easy for him to make that happen? Was it convenient for Jesus to leave his home in heaven to come down into our neighbourhood and invite us to his party? Were we grateful guests? Were we attractive guests? Did that stop him?
What a blessing we’ll be to our communities if we pray to God and ask him to help us to be more hospitable. Maybe we need to pile everything into the kitchen sink before the school run so we’re able to invite someone in for a cuppa. Maybe we could start by inviting someone for lunch after church. Tinned soup and supermarket bread goes down a treat, in my experience.
Let’s not think that, if we’re parents, we’re exempt from showing hospitality. It might be really hard for us, but the Lord sees that even if nobody else does. And remember that if your guests don’t have a family, your family will most probably be a blessing to them. By God’s grace, the family home is a powerful thing.
I do believe that God wants to help us grow in hospitality. Who knows what blessings he has in store? And when it goes wrong, let’s laugh it off, dust ourselves down and try again soon. Grace be with you!
For more on this, I’d love to recommend ‘The Ministry of a Messy House’ by Amanda Robbie.
(If the title of this blog post made you think of Shania Twain, then we are on the smart wavelengh my friend. Ah – ah – aoooh…)
*we did once spend some time in a very big house with no oven. We used a microwave.