“Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:13)
When I think of hospitality, the first image that comes to mind is Martha Stewart, clothes and hair perfectly in place, setting a table with beautiful crafts and food that are too eloquent to touch or eat. If Martha Stewart is my model, the closest I will ever come to this style of hospitality is looking through her magazines while envying the beautiful crafts and foods.
Growing up, the model of hospitality that I had is quite the contrary of Ms. Stewart. My parents are immigrants of China, and they lived simple lives. Our home looked like it belonged in the ‘60’s. For the holidays, our table was marked by dollar store decorations and disposable china. Chinese family members and friends would arrive with simple clothes and someone would manage to burp loudly throughout the dinner making us children snicker uncontrollably. Loud slurps and chatter filled the room as guests voraciously ate their food and talked over each other. Unrefined and chaotic with every table manner broken describe my family gatherings.
Therefore, growing up in both the American and Chinese culture, hospitality was confusing for me. On one hand I had an image of total perfection and on the other hand I had an image of total imperfection. To add to the confusion, my Christian culture taught me that hospitality was a spiritual gift that only some had. I would never score high on the gift of hospitality so I just assumed that hospitality was not for me.
One season, I was challenged by a book called Table Life by Joanna Thompson. In it she writes, “Our tendency is to categorize hospitality into two groups of people, those who naturally love to entertain and those who say, ‘That’s not my thing’. Both perspectives may be devoid of faith.” She continues to write, “Sharing your table isn’t fueled by faith in your magnificent entertaining skills or gregarious personality. It’s believing that God will satisfy hearts as well as appetites when you share your table in Jesus name.” (Thompson, p. 10)
I discovered that numerous scriptures in the Bible call all believers to hospitality (Lev. 19:34, Heb. 13:2, I Peter 4:9, Titus 1:8). We are called to be a lover of strangers, embracing into your family someone who does not know or share your identity, life and values. We are to be persistent in our pursuit of inviting people into our lives and our home with glad welcome expecting nothing in return. Why do we do this? Because God in His infinite love lavishly welcomed us sinners into His eternal home. We are no longer strangers or sojourners. Everyone who trusts in Jesus finds a home in God.
Understanding biblical hospitality has freed me to pursue hospitality. I am learning that it is not about having a perfect home, decorations or food. Looking back at my family’s hospitality, I cannot deny the spirit of generosity, love and selflessness behind the chaos. I am learning hospitality is not about me. It is about joyfully and selflessly drawing people into a deep experience of God’s hospitality by the use of my home or church home. How is God calling you to pursue hospitality? ~ Edna