You might not think you have much to offer in terms of hospitality. You aren’t a Michelin Star chef, your house would never be photographed for a magazine, and you’re not even close to having all the theological answers. However, none of these things are required for true hospitality. Only Christ is needed, and because of him, you have immeasurable impact to offer. You have the very power of Christ to offer. When you serve, God supplies you with the strength you need. The power of Christ is made perfect in your weakness.
I get home from work and walk into the kitchen. Atop the stove lie things upon which I have to imagine angels would long to look: chicken puffs and mace carrots, and a dessert to boot. It is one of many favorite dishes in our home—one that we love to share on a night like this. A couple that is relatively new to our church is coming over and we’d like to get to know them better. Most people we’ve shared this meal with have never had it before, and every time my wife Hannah prepares it, I am transported back to my early twenties and my weekly drive to the Oliver home.
Rewind to 2010. After classes concluded for the day, I drove out to the pasturelands on the outskirts of our college town with a handful of other college students. Each week we were guaranteed a hot, home-cooked meal away from home. As a broke college kid, how could I possibly turn that down?
But the food turned out only to be a delicious means to a greater end. I also received a family. With these brothers and sisters in Christ I could lose my breath in laughter, cry, and pray as we walked through life. I was invited over for dinner, yes, but even more, I received an invitation to witness up-close what a godly marriage, godly parenting, and godly service really looked like. I watched Molly pull out all the stops and sling around all the kitchenware, which Paul washed by hand at the end of dinner. I watched them raise their children in the ways of God. I watched them faithfully serve others at our church and at their workplace.
Don’t miss this: it was only through their decision and commitment to be intentionally hospitable, that I learned these valuable lessons.
Is Hospitality a Gift?
When it comes to biblical hospitality, most of us recognize its importance and will certainly value it when it is offered to us. But when it comes to the prospect of inviting others into our homes (and lives), we tend to defer to our weaknesses to get us off the hook. I’m familiar with the arguments because I’ve made them myself over the years: “That just isn’t my spiritual gift.” “We don’t have a home conducive to hosting.” “I’m not a good cook.” “My house is never clean.” “No one wants to be around all of my crazy kids.” Our protests rattle off like Moses taking exception with God’s commission (Ex. 4:1–17). Hospitality is viewed as a Christian ideal that’s simply out of reach.
It seems in the church we often limit our ministry activities to what best aligns with our perceived spiritual gifts or personality traits. We take assessments and ask questions that point us to our strengths: “What do I like?” “What comes naturally to me?” “What am I good at?” Then we let our answers to these questions dictate where and how we serve the body of Christ. If, for example, I’ve got a low score on “evangelism,” so the argument goes, then I might consider myself to be in the clear and can instead leave the evangelizing to someone more gifted. I think it is fair to say that many people fail to practice biblical hospitality because they feel an inherent deficiency in themselves to do it well.
A particularly insightful passage for our purposes is 1 Peter 4.