We had just moved to a new house. Literally just moved. Unpacked boxes, misplaced furniture – chaos in whichever direction you cared to poke. Then – the doorbell rang. We had our first visitors – friends who happened to be in the area.
During the obligatory house tour, we entered the bedroom. My husband had been there before me and unpacked his clothing (choosing the best drawers for his stuff!), but my possessions were dumped all over the bed, underwear uppermost. I still don’t know what the visitors thought!
Were we wrong to offer such disconcerting hospitality? I don’t think so. We gave what we could in the (slightly unusual!) circumstances.
But had I known a week in advance that they were coming, would I have prepared differently? For sure! It couldn’t have been a pleasant experience entering such ungoverned confusion!
So, when life is busy and we juggle 101 competing demands, how do we offer hospitality? And who should do this?
First up, I should nail my colours to the mast and say that I don’t think hospitality is limited to meek housewives in flowery aprons, with everything about them and their home dainty and perfect (of course, there’s nothing wrong with this if you can manage it!).
The teaching of the Bible (e.g. Romans 12:13) is that being hospitable is an expected part of a Christian’s character. It’s a way of showing love to others. If possible, it’s something we (everyone!) should do, or show, in whatever measure we can.
Men and women, young and old. That’s the who.
As to how to show hospitality … for this I must tell another story:
We were out for tea. Picture a tiny sheltered-housing type bungalow inhabited by an elderly Christian couple.
The compact lounge is arrayed with family photos; a lifetime’s collection of knick-knacks cover every conceivable surface. The tiny kitchen is barely big enough for the table – which is carefully laid with floral china dishes containing prepared food.
Simple, thoughtful and well organised. There is nothing pretentious here. You can see how this couple live and Who they live for. Their conversation is wholesome; they appear utterly content with what they have and with each other.
It was an honour to have tea in this home. We came away physically and spiritually refreshed. This was hospitality at its best, but offering it can’t have been easy for them…
Our hostess had mobility problems;
there wasn’t much space;
they didn’t have a great deal;
there was nothing outwardly impressive…
but I don’t think any of that would have occurred to them. Above every other consideration, they served God by sharing what they had with us.
Of course, dwelling on these high aims doesn’t set the table, tidy the house, or cook the food. There are plenty of practical bits and bobs to consider along the way to providing hospitality.