Arnold Glasow sums up hospitality: “Hospitality is making others feel at home. Some folks make you feel at home. Others make you wish you were.” All kidding aside, hospitality is serious business. So many wonder, do I belong? Am I welcome here? Many people struggle to believe that God cares about them at all. Our hospitality is one way God says “Yes, I care about you.”
For many of us, hospitality does not come naturally. I remember some generally kind ladies in the church where I served in Indianapolis, Indiana. When my parents came to visit the church; they actually asked my parents to move because they “had sat in their seats.” What?! Hospitality is simply an expression of love towards others. It’s being intentional about reaching out to people. It is having an open heart and a hand of generosity towards others. I was reading recently about the tribes of Zulu-Natal in South Africa that have a unique custom. When two people meet, instead of saying hello, as we would, the first person to speak says, “I see you.” (The Outward Focused Life, Dave Workman, 144). I like that! I think that is how Jesus treated people. He authentically expressed “you are welcome here” to everyone. He was known as a “friend of sinners.” As a sinner myself, I am eternally grateful.
I love the interaction Jesus has with a Samaritan woman in John 4. He intentionally goes to her community, a place most Jewish people would avoid like the plague, because of their animosity towards the Samaritans. Yet Jesus seeks out this woman who had been divorced by multiple husbands and is even drawing water from the well at the hottest time of the time of the day because she was ostracized by the other women. In a word, she was the poster girl for rejection. But Jesus offers her time, courtesy and respect. She is one of the first people that he entrusts with the message that he is the long-awaited Jewish Messiah. He trades her identity of rejection for a new identity—beloved. Jesus came to die on the cross and offer salvation to her, the rejected, the marginalized, the forgotten. As Christians we represent Jesus to the world. We too must offer his radical hospitality to people.
The apostle Paul writes: “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:13). There are many faces of hospitality. I see them every week at church. They are the volunteers in our food pantry giving food to the hungry in our community. They are the foster parents who step up to help a child who is in danger in their own home. They are the parents who have adopted a child, stepping in for the parent who could not be there. It is the family that struggles through the communication issues to host a foreign exchange student. Again, there are many faces of hospitality, but each one is smiling as they offer the gift of a welcome space and relationship. When I struggle to show hospitality, it helps me to ask, am I showing the person in front of me God’s heart?
It has been said that every life shouts a message. Let our lives, through our hospitality, shout “you are loved.”
Derek Dickinson is the Pastor at Journey Christian Church. Insight is sponsored by Tanana Valley Christian Conference.