The perfect, Pinterest-worthy table. A spread at which Martha would marvel. In today's society, these lofty goals have become the focus of our hospitality—the drive of our gatherings. We have made the purpose of hospitality to impress our guests—entertaining those whose praise we covet.
Alternatively, some of us cringe at the idea of hosting and sidestep opportunities to show hospitality in our homes, thinking it either safer to avoid the scrutiny of our circumstances or best to save our energy for more rewarding pursuits.
You never know how God will use the smallest act of hospitality.
Each of these approaches to hospitality are evidence of our sin-warped world. For, when we believe hospitality is for ourselves, we make it shallow. It becomes impersonal and unremarkable or worse—conniving.
THE IMPACT OF HOSPITALITY
When God brought Israel out of Egypt, He gave them a command to love the strangers among them as themselves. Why? Because "I am the Lord your God"(Leviticus 19:34). God values hospitality. He practices it daily as He offers mercy and grace to people (His enemies!) through Jesus Christ. For, the Son of God left the throne of heaven to enter our brokenness and break bread with sinners. And He didn't stop there. He broke His body and poured out His blood to justify us before God, to bring us into His house and seat us at the Lord's table at the wedding feast of the Lamb (see John 14:2-3 and Revelation 19:9).
Our holy, loving God calls us to follow His example and welcome people to our table—both believers and unbelievers (Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9; Romans 12:13; et al.). Hospitality must be the lifestyle of every Christian because it embodies the Christlike attitude of selflessness and deepens our faith through Christian community (Philippians 2:5-8; Hebrews 10:24-25).
You never know how God will use the smallest act of hospitality. It may seem the smallest of sacrifices. Like the time that Francis Schaeffer simply offered a young man a chair. In the 1960s, Schaeffer was lecturing at Berkeley University. In the middle of his lecture, a young man came in— barefoot, unkempt, odorous, in every way exuding rebellion. Schaeffer stopped his lecture to look about the room for a seat. Finding none, he took his own chair and placed it before the latecomer, saying, "Young man, welcome. We're so glad to have you with us. Please come and have a seat."
Ten minutes later, the young man opened up a tirade at Schaeffer, unable to comprehend this small act of kindness toward him: "Why don't you hate me?! I don't look like you! I don't believe like you! Why?"Schaeffer answered, "Young man, how can I hate you when you are created in God's own image? How can I hate you when God made you, formed you, and loves you?"By the end of that night, the young man was raised to new life in Christ.Sometimes our hospitality will require enormous sacrifices by worldly standards—sacrifices to our emotional comfort and even to our physical homes. But how rich the reward. Through hospitality offered in Christ's name, we can participate in the growth of the Kingdom of God—encouraging believers in faith and introducing unbelievers to the bread of life (see John 6:32-40). At the table, we can serve as Christ did.
Are you unsure how to begin? Take to heart the inspiring words of Francis Schaeffer: "There is no place in God's world where there are no people who will come and share a home as long as it is a real home."Often, we mistakenly assume that ministry must be done through the pulpit or some sort of official church program. But our greatest ministry can begin in our homes where we can pour out the love of Christ in word and deed. So, invite your neighbors to the table, break bread with the lost, and ask God to satisfy the hungry eternally through Christ.
GOING DEEPER AT THE DINNER TABLE
It is easy to eat and run—to keep conversation superficial and comfortable—but let's not miss out on opportunities to grow our relationships with one another and with the Lord.
Here are some conversation starters to help you go deeper as you seek to sincerely serve and love your guests: