Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pursuing Hospitalty: The First Five Principles

Here are the first five principles on how to practice hospitality.

First, think long and deep about God’s kindness to you. All of our actions are to flow out of who God is and what he has done for us. If your hospitality is not an act of thanksgiving to God for what he has done then it will not please him. Hospitality should come from the overflow of your life in Christ, not from guilt. Study and pray over those passages in God’s Word that describe God’s kindness to you. Matthew 22 is a good place to start. You could also read Psalm 104-106. There are numerous passages in Isaiah, such as Isaiah 2:1-5, 55, and 66:10-13. You could also read passages that talk about feasting, like Exodus 24:9-18, II Samuel 9, I Kings 8 (especially verses 65-66) and II Chronicles 30:21-27. Finally, you could read and meditate on Revelation 21-22. A theology of hospitality grounded in God's Word must be the foundation for our practice of hospitality.

Second, cultivate a love for people and the messes that come along with them. People track in mud. This mud can be real, such as spilled milk, broken furniture or clogged toilets. It can also be mud like ugly marriages, selfish hearts, immature speech and ingratitude. Without a love for people and a desire to love them in the midst of their messes we will never truly practice hospitality. Are you willing to put up with the difficulties and problems people will bring into your home? If not, then go back to the previous paragraph and review how God cares for you in the midst of your messes.

Third, work with your particular situation. We are all at different phases in our lives. To a large degree, these phases dictate how hospitable we can be. A man with six young children will not be able to practice hospitality to the same degree as a man with one child or man with children all over fifteen years old. A man who works 37 hours a week and is always home by 5 will be able to do things that a man who works 50 hours a week and travels a lot cannot. Proverbs says, “Be diligent to know the state of your flocks and attend to your herds.” (27:23) In other words, know your situation. Know what you have and what you do not have. Here are at least three things to evaluate:

1. How many children do you have and what are their ages? More children will often make frequent hospitality difficult. The reason is simple: children take time and energy. A mother who is nursing one child, with two in diapers and two more under the age of ten will have a hard time getting ready for guests. She is already practicing hospitality with her “guests.” She needs her husband’s help, which means hospitality will be more infrequent and will usually take place on the weekend. The amount of hospitality will vary from family to family. It is the husband’s job to make sure he is not overdoing it and is showing hospitality to his wife and children by considering their needs.
2. What is the husband’s job situation? How many hours is the husband working? Has he been out of town? A wife is not to lead in hospitality. That is the husband’s job. Therefore he needs to make sure that he is around to help. This will vary from home to home
3. What is the physical state of the home and the people in the home? Have the children been sick? Is the wife 8 ½ months pregnant? Has it been a long week or couple of weeks and the whole family needs a break? Sometimes the more righteous thing to do is not invite someone over.

Fourth, be hospitable. Don’t entertain. One of the great temptations with hospitality is to dazzle people. This is not what the Bible is talking about. There is a place in the Christian life for a grand feast with everyone in their best clothes. But that is not regular hospitality. Hospitality is about showing kindness, meeting the needs of your guests and making sure they are comfortable. Hospitality should be devoted, not to showing off, but to making sure your guests are at home. The food should be good, but not ostentatious. The meal and time afterward should be devoted to conversation and getting to know one another. It should be leisurely and joyful.

Fifth, go outside your normal circle of friends and peers. We all need friends. These are the people we invite over without thinking. The people we want to hang out with. This is good and we should certainly show hospitality to them. However, we also want to learn to be kind to those who are not like us. The young should invite over the old and the old the young. The family with no children should invite the one with five. The lawyer should invite the farmer. The auto mechanic should invite over the doctor. The Hispanic should invite over the Asian. We are the Body of Christ. We are not bound by race, economic status or level of education. We are bound together by the blood of Christ. Reach outside your normal group and invite someone over who you would not naturally think of inviting.

1 comment:

Kim said...

I just wanted to let you know that I've enjoyed your group of posts on hospitality. They've been a blessing and encouragement to me :-)

Let the saints be joyful in glory, let them sing aloud on their beds, let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind the kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron. Psalm 149:5-8