Being a hostess is in my DNA. My parents constantly host dinner parties, birthday parties, fish frys, bon fires, and every other party you can imagine. I had the pleasure to grow up seeing how wonderful it was to experience fellowship with so many in our own home. It’s something that is a part of me and that my own family now tries to include in our weekly schedule.
But recently, my Christian understanding of hospitality has been challenged. I have been reading “The Year of Small Things” and one of the chapters focuses on hospitality. I was reminded of Luke 14:12-14 (NIV):
12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
But wait, we are really hospitable. We host friends for dinner or get togethers frequently. Why can’t that count? But, Jesus is calling us to another level of hospitality- providing it for those who cannot repay us. That makes it a little less fun for me. We love going to our friend’s houses for dinner and drinks or play dates and then us hosting at another date. Why can’t that be enough for “our’ form of hospitality?
I have been marinating on this scripture for the last several weeks and praying for ways that God can allow me to experience it. The first was including an awkward, single neighbor by inviting him to our home for a get together. I was nervous about how his behavior could affect our other guests. Would he try to smoke around children? What would I talk to him about? Do we have anything in common besides being neighbors? Thankfully, God proved my fears wrong and we had a nice time getting to know him. He thanked me repeatedly for including him. I didn’t really need the the thank you but the part that made me smile was that he felt welcome and not left out.
The next nudge came from God to become more involved with a church ministry that feeds the homeless. This one was especially scary to me because I hate the social awkwardness that has come with previous interactions with homeless men or women. That’s where my uncomfortableness came from. “No, I don’t have any cash” I would reply as I grabbed my son’s hand and quickly headed into the restaurant. Even if I had cash, I was fearful to open my wallet with my son present.
But today, I went out on that uncomfortable limb to provide hospitality that wouldn’t be repaid to me. I helped load up metal carts with sandwiches, chips, cookies, oranges and lemonade to serve the hungry along Ponce de Leon Ave in Midtown. We walked half a mile to our first location and everyone lined up to receive a meal. Many were homeless, some day laborers looking for a lunch while hoping to get picked up for a job, and others were there to help us. One man said a loud version of a children’s blessing then everyone went through the line to get their food. My job was to pass out the oranges- only two per person. I smiled as I did my job and asked names while introducing myself. Some folks were happy and wanted to chat while others were quick to move along. When it was all over, I was shocked at how we still had sandwiches left and that everyone had gotten as many as they wanted. I also was surprised at how quickly we were done. From start to finish, it was two hours. It takes more time for me to grocery shop, cook, set up, and clean up for a party than that!
Don’t worry friends, we still are going to have parties and we still want to be invited to your homes. I think God wants that for us too. Just not to let it be our ONLY type of hospitality.
What are some ways you can practice this type of unrepayable hospitality? Can you host friends/neighbors/family that can’t repay you? Can you visit the homebound or those in nursing homes? Can you work at a food pantry? Can you donate baby supplies to a baby you will never meet? Can you help a co-worker pay for her car repair? Can you foster children that you may never see again?
Can’t wait to see what kind of hospitality God has in store for me next!