I love to cook, decorate my house and garden. In short, I have a real domestic side. I occasionally indulge this side of my personality by watching The Food Network or Home and Garden Television. I find it interesting to watch celebrity chefs whip up some beautiful concoction or follow along while talented renovators turn a dump into palace. Theoretically, other than the entertainment value they offer, these programs are supposed to encourage us to cook and renovate and improve our surroundings so we can invite others over and practice hospitality. Practically speaking, I believe they do just the opposite. They terrify us.
Hospitality in North America is in its death throes. It’s choking, gasping for air, writhing in pain and begging for release. Perhaps one of the reasons we’re so anxious about showing hospitality is because we don’t fully understand what it is. Hospitality is not an opportunity for us to show off our beautiful homes and culinary skills. It is also not just a practice for those with the spiritual gift of hospitality. Hospitality is a way for all of us to serve others and to build community.
I have come to believe that while hospitality almost always takes place around food, the food really isn’t the point at all. The food is merely the vehicle for showing love to others. 1 Peter 4:8-10 reads “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.” Romans 12:13 “Always be eager to practise hospitality.” Certainly, there are those who have the spiritual gift of hospitality, but we are all called to be hospitable. Some have the gift of giving, yet we are all called to give. Some have the gift of faith, yet we are all called to believe. Some have the gift of evangelism, yet we are all called to witness. I’m sure you’re getting my point here – there are some practises Christians are called to, whether or not we feel we have that spiritual gift.
In our world of hectic schedules and frantic pace taking the time to slow down and invite people over seems counter-intuitive. We are doers. We achieve. We are independent people charting our own course and the more we can demonstrate our lack of need for others the more satisfied we are. Sadly, we have failed to take into account that we do need others. There is no person alive who doesn’t need to love and be loved. We were created for relationship by the God who is Himself in constant relationship with the Son and the Spirit. We need relationship with that God but we also need relationship with one another. We were created for community.
So, why are we so scared? We need community, we’re called to be hospitable, we understand we should show love to others, yet we seem to be terrified of having others into our homes. One reason is those TV shows I love to watch. I’m convinced the same programs that purport to show us how to cook and how to decorate also convince us that our homes and our skills in the kitchen are woefully inadequate. We worry about what we will cook, about the age of the carpet or whether the window coverings are “so last year”. We fear those we invite into our homes will behave the way the people on the television do. We fear they will judge us.
Some will. There are those who will come to your home and take note of the carpet, the drapes and the meal and note with satisfaction that theirs are better. However, the vast majority of those you invite will be grateful for the invitation and for the opportunity to share life with you. For hospitality isn’t about the meal or the surroundings – it’s about sharing life together. Hospitality is about inviting somebody in, being interested in her life, accepting and loving her the way you’d like to be accepted and loved. It’s about the stories and the laughter and the creation of memories around a table. It’s actually not about the food at all – it’s all about the people.
Christians are called to be a peculiar people. We are to be a people set apart from the world we live in, a people whose values and goals are not the same as those of the world. We don’t invite others so they will invite us back. We welcome people to show them love and to build community. When is the last time you had somebody in? Is it time for you to cheerfully share your home? You may be surprised at how wonderful it is to deepen friendships and serve others in your own home. Don’t be afraid. Instead, embrace the call to be one who shows love to all whose paths cross yours. Practice hospitality.
Karen Vine is a regular contributor to the Soul Care Collective.
Image attribution: Andrey Popov / Thinkstock