I’m posting this pretty late in the day for Mummy Meditations. Usually I try to get my post written up on Saturday and scheduled on Sunday. But it’s been one of those weekends: we’ve been busy every single moment up until now. It’s ironic in some ways, because it’s the hospitality part of this week’s verse which has kept me from writing it up!
This week’s verse has been a lovely one: Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:12.
I say that’s a lovely verse. If you’re an introvert, it’s probably not your favourite Bible verse. There’s an element to it that makes me feel a bit anxious (more on that later) but generally, I love the idea.
What is hospitality?
Dictionary.com defines hospitality as “the friendly and generous entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers. It comes from the same root as ‘hospital:’ the Latin word ‘hospes,’ meaning ‘guest’ or ‘stranger.’
For me, hospitality is how strangers become friends. It’s how people get to know each other, and it’s ultimately what brings people into community and often, into the church.
The root of hospitality is love: We are told to love our neighbour as ourself in Matthew 22:39, and we know that our ‘neighbours’ can be anyone at all. So, as with all these aspects of kindness that we’ve been looking at, Jesus’ love it at the centre of it.
It’s more than inviting people over for a meal (although that is definitely part of hospitality). It’s simply about spending time with people and inviting them to share some of your life. It might mean inviting their family over, or inviting them into your church small group.
What did Biblical hospitality look like?
When I was reading the passage, I kept thinking of Abraham in Genesis 18. Three men came to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham immediately offered to wash their feet, let them rest in the shade and gave them a good meal of bread made with the ‘best flour’ and a ‘tender calf.’ Three things stood out to me: firstly, that Abraham was very quick to offer hospitality to them. Secondly, that he gave them the things they needed (rest and food) and finally, that he gave them the best of what he had.
What should our hospitality look like?
In terms of these principles, I think our hospitality should look the same. We should be quick to offer hospitality to people. We should be quick to offer our homes and our time. Hopefully, we will notice exactly what people need: whether that’s a quiet cup of tea and a listening ear, or an energetic playdate with their small children. Sometimes, our hospitality will look like a few bottles of wine and some silly games – and that’s how friendships are created.
Abraham gave the best of what he had available: bread, meat and curds. We also need to give the best of what we have available. Sometimes, there won’t be much in the fridge, but that doesn’t stop us being hospitable. At other times, it may just feel like too much effort, but we still need to give the best of ourselves.
What if we’re not naturally hospitable?
I’m an extrovert, and usually I’m energised by spending time with other people. Sometimes, though, I just want to be on my own and get on with the things I need to get on with. I can understand why some people hate the thought of inviting others over into their homes: their homes are their private space.
I think this is where we have a good opportunity to be hospitable within church. All churches have some way of showing hospitality to new people – perhaps by serving coffee after the service, or even by hosting a big church Christmas lunch. There will always be some way to serve if hospitality isn’t really your thing.
The idea of inviting strangers into my home does make me a bit anxious, and I think I would be a bit naive to suggest inviting everyone you meet into your home immediately.
So being hospitable at church is a really good way of getting to know people first. Meeting on neutral ground is another way – going for coffee or a drink. Now we have small children, we find it much easier to have people come to us (once we know them a bit) as we have the high chair, the cot for Samuel to nap, the toys etc…, and that works well for us.
What if we’re really good at hospitality?
Some of my friends are amazing at hospitality. They are always having people over for dinner, or meeting up with new friends or chatting to new people. Even when we were all in our early 20s and skint, living in tiny flats without a dining table, they’d host ‘chicken dinner,’ a brilliant idea. They’d cook a chicken, and each guest would bring a vegetable. It happened every Monday night and was amazing for creating community.
If you’re good at hospitality, really sow into this. Seek out new and creative ways to be hospitable. Introduce your new friends to your old friends. Hospitality is an amazing gift.
What’s all this about angels?
I find the angels part of this verse a bit strange if I’m honest. It’s phrased as if the possibility that we might entertain angels should be our motivation for being hospitable. Like Abraham, who was, in fact, entertaining angels, we could be hosting angels in our homes.
I think for me, it’s about seeing people as God sees them: as treasured possessions, people who are worth going the extra mile for. People who need kindness. Yes, they could be angels, and we could perhaps never know. For me, that’s not the important thing. The important thing is love.
I have really enjoyed this month’s study on Kindness. Next month, we’re looking at gentleness as our next fruit of the spirit. Rachel will be looking at the following verse on her blog:
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1