The Power of Hospitality
Hospitality – the friendly and generous reception and treatment of visitors, guests or strangers.
Hospitality reaches out to welcome in and give to others. Hospitality has a lot to do with growing our capacity for others, bringing people under the covering and shelter of our lives, giving from any love or goodness that we have to share.
In my study of hospitality, I was delighted to find this instance of when Jesus was hospitable, recorded in the book of John, chapter 1, verses 37-40,
“When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus. Jesus looked around and saw them following. “What do you want?” he asked them. They replied, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” “Come and see,” he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day. Andrew…was one of these men…”
Andrew became one of Jesus’ 12 apostles. His first introduction to Jesus was that he hung out with him in His home. Jesus allowed people to come close to Him and He invited them into His space.
Scripture records that the early church was hospitable. In the book of Acts, chapter 2, verse 46 we read,
“They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity.”
In the words of my friend, Steve Sudworth, “In the early church, their homes were central places of meeting, not castles to retreat to.”
Something happens when we welcome people into our personal space as Jesus did and when we share meals together as they did in the early church.
Hospitality is not limited to meals, but MEALS are a big part of hospitality.
Sharing meals is a spiritual thing. Meals are powerful to break down barriers, to build trust, to meet physical and emotional needs, to provide family and to minister to people. Nourishment is a need that all of humanity shares. Eating is a family and community activity. So, when we invite people into the activity and space of sharing a meal, we’re saying, “I care about your needs and I want to be family with you.”
Romans chapter 12, verse 13 encourages us to “Always be eager to practice hospitality.” “Practice” would suggest that hospitality is a skill we can and should grow in.
My friend, Susanne Sivewright in South Africa, along with her husband leads a vibrant church of several hundred and is brilliant at hospitality, her home always overflowing with love and people, the warmth of nourishing food and the lingering whispers of good conversation. Susanne says, “Our homes should be gifts from God to be used, not show pieces to be admired and preserved. The mistake we often make is to confuse entertainment with hospitality. Entertaining is all about impressing with my beautiful home, my clever decorating, my gourmet cooking and few can do it. So it leads to stress. Whereas hospitality says, ‘I want to minister. This home is not mine, it’s a gift’ – and EVERYONE can do that.”
To “minister” simply means to attend to the needs of someone.
This past summer, my husband and I put a picnic table in our back yard and started having meals around it with our neighbors. You can hear about it here: Neighbors at Your Table .
I believe that we all should move towards being able to open our homes to one another, but there are also other ways we can express hospitality – to extend “friendly and generous reception and treatment of visitors, guests or strangers.” A few of these might be:
Taking someone out for a cup of coffee
Taking someone out for a meal
Making cookies or a baked item for someone
Giving a thoughtful gift or a card
Stopping to talk to your neighbor on your street or your neighbor at the office
Meeting a physical need of someone around you
Jesus, in another instance, showed extravagant hospitality to Andrew and the others when he washed their feet. John chapter 13 records that they were sharing supper (that powerful act of togetherness) and Jesus got up to begin washing the filth off of his friends’ feet.
In those days they wore open sandals, and the streets were dirty! Cows and donkeys walked the streets… you can imagine what ended up on their feet! Who would dream of volunteering to wash that filth off of someone’s feet? Yet Jesus did.
Today we don’t have that kind of filth on our streets, or at least we have better shoes and boots to protect us from it. But we do have the difficulties and the hurts of this life, we do have the hardships that are placed on us by this cruel world. People are carrying burdens and pains and the filth and dirt of living hard. And when we serve them, when we’re hospitable to them – when we serve ONE ANOTHER, in effect we’re washing that filth off of one another’s feet. Hospitality refreshes one another spiritually, just like washing feet would refresh physically.
Jesus said to Peter in verse 8, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.” When they allowed Him to wash their feet and they received from Him in that way, it allowed for a connection to be made and it was a foreshadowing of the spiritual washing of their souls that He was going to bring.
Then, in verse 14, Jesus says, “And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet.”
When we help to wash the filth off of each other and receive that from one another it brings a connection between us. When we reach out to the world around us and minister to people’s needs, it brings a connection.
HOSPITALITY creates connection. It builds a bridge. And then, perhaps, weightier, spiritual things can travel across that bridge.
I looked at the word used in the original Greek language in New Testament scripture for the word “hospitality”. Look at this golden goodness: “hospitality’ in Greek is “love to strangers.” I love that!
I am learning, and learning over again, and again that everything starts with and comes back to LOVE. Hospitality at its heart is giving love and we can all make room in our hearts, our calendars and around our tables for that!
Perhaps take a moment and think of a few individuals or families you know who could use friendship and love. Write their names down if necessary on a piece of paper and put it on your fridge so you remember to contact them, or put a reminder in your calendar right now to invite them over for a meal or out for a cup of coffee. Make space in your capacity for showing generosity and love through the very powerful gift of hospitality.