I just found this post in my drafts from back before we got pregnant. I think it's a good kick up the rear to get my house back in order after months of morning-sickness induced mess and lethargy. We haven't had people round to the house for ages!
Practicing hospitality is a very important biblical principle. We can see it throughout the bible, and Jesus taught it as a way of creating community and helping those in need.
The word hospitality actually means 'entertaining strangers', so it's not just about having your best friends round for dinner now and again. Sometimes it's going to take sacrifice and generosity on our part by looking out for people who are lonely, hungry or need a place to stay. We need to see our homes as gifts from God which are to be used to love others, not just as our own private retreats.
Imagine that you've been invited out for a meal, or for a weekend away at someones house. What would you say would make that time special for you? Good food? Beautiful surroundings? Comfortable furniture?
Most of us would probably say the important thing for us is our hosts. Are they friendly? Do they make us feel welcome? Do they really care about us and what we have to say? I think the key thing to focus on when you're opening your home is;
'Who are my guests and what do they need?'
Each person is going to be completely different...some might need tea and sympathy, another might need some tough love, while others might simply need a place to stay and a bite to eat. If I cooked up an eight course meal with fancy crockery and lots of knives and forks for a homeless person they'd probably feel really out of place and awkward, whereas that might be a nice treat for someone else. It all just depends on who you're hosting.
When I go to someones house the thing that will make it extra special to me is if it's a treat. I think it's probably because my love language is acts of service; I feel loved if I experience something out of the ordinary from my day-to-day life. It can be something as small as a home in a beautiful location, or an artfully placed bunch of flowers. My own hosting style comes out of that really. I want to show people I love them by creating a clean, pretty house for them to hang out in, I want them to be well fed, not only with good meals but tasty snacks that they wouldn't necessarily have normally and I want them to feel relaxed and at home.
To that end I can sometimes put too much time and effort into doing things and not spend time loving people in the way they need, and that's where this lesson really comes in for me. Not everyone has the love language of acts of service and so not everyone will feel overly loved by using a clean bathroom or eating yummy food. I need to keep in mind 'who are my guests and what do they need?' and listen to God as to how I can love them best.
However, having said that I think it's important that we prepare and equip ourselves to be good hosts and hostesses. For me, if someone calls over unexpectedly and my house is a mess I feel a bit embarrassed; I can't concentrate fully on them as I'm worried about tidying up. We need to identify the ways in which we feel most comfortable hosting and take measures to make sure we're ready and willing to completely focus on other people.
I've identified two ways in which I can prepare myself for being more hospitable:
1) Take a few minutes every day clean up the house. My house is generally kept pretty clean at the moment because I work part time, but even on days that I'm busy I try to pick up after myself. It doesn't always work out, but if I can at least keep the kitchen, the bathroom and the living room clean and tidy it makes spur-of-the-moment invites much easier. I hate that moment when you're arriving home with unexpected guests frantically thinking "did I pick up my PJs from the bathroom floor this morning?!".
2) Keep food in the freezer
A few days ago I put aside a whole day to re-stock my freezer. I made two fish pies, eight portions of cottage pie, an apple crumble and a cake. I also try and keep a packet of soup in my cupboard, and some dry ingredients for a meal ready in my cupboards. I'm not always prepared and it's not the end of the world if I have to nip out and buy a pizza but if I know I have good homemade food available at home I'm more relaxed about inviting people back.
Practicing hospitality is going to look different for each one of us. It could be giving food to a homeless person, hosting your bible study group one week or inviting a new member of your church back for dinner. If you can't cook then why not invite someone out to a cafe for lunch?
God is challenging me to listen to him daily about how I can love other people more, and to take steps to make sure I actually follow through with his commands. What is he telling you to do today?
1. Do you feel like hospitality is one of your gifts?
2. How do you most appreciated when you visit someone elses home?
3. How are you practicing hospitality at the moment?