I love to host people in my home—the more the merrier! The idea of one day owning a bed-and-breakfast and preparing a meal for strangers who have traveled far and wide, preparing all the Southern fixin’s you can imagine (eggs, bacon, grits, biscuits, gravy), makes this Tennessee girl jump for joy. Hospitality is a joy for me—not a burden. But a recent move has left me with far less space to host. It’s easy to excuse our inhospitable attitudes due to inadequate space or messy homes. Yet during this move I’ve been reminded that hospitality is a matter of the heart, not square footage or neatness.
My family recently moved from a three-bedroom, full basement, ranch-style home across our long state and into a two-bedroom apartment. The apartment is spacious enough but definitely smaller. When we first moved into the area I hesitated to say that I lived in an apartment when people would ask me where I lived. Instead I’d say something like, “I live in the neighborhood off the major interstate.” It wasn’t long before the Lord convicted me of pride and fear of man. Worldliness and covetousness had crept into my heart. Thank you, Lord, for that revelation and the repentance that followed! But then visiting friends began to request to stay in our apartment.
There’s a temptation to want to wait until everything is “perfect”—as in a large, clean, beautiful home—before allowing someone in. Our new home felt like it was too small to truly be welcoming. And because of the lack of space, boxes were still piled up in public places. So we lived in a box, filled with boxes, so I thought. Did I mention that we have two children? So it’s a box, filled with boxes, and toys. There’s no way, I thought. In the middle of holiday season, I imagine many others share my concern about whether we can adequately care for guests.
Hospitality Is About Love
Peter got to the heart of hospitality when he urged his readers to “show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9). Hospitality was a matter of survival in the first century. So Peter reminded Christians not to complain during this common activity.
Surrounded by that Scripture on hospitality, Peter tells us to “keep loving one another earnestly,” and “as each has received a gift, use it to serve one another” (1 Peter 4:8, 10). Hospitality is a practical way to love your neighbor as yourself and fan into flame the gift that God has given you.
Hospitality Is About the Heart
It is possible to have a completely clean home, every room in order, large space, and a meal that a five-star restaurant would envy, and yet not be hospitable. Perhaps you’ve done it. Everything is neat and tidy, but you still run around like Martha “distracted with much serving” rather than sitting and enjoying your guests like Mary as she sat at Jesus’ feet (Luke 10:38-42). Love transforms hospitality. When we begin to think about serving others and sharing not only our spaces but also our hearts, we can open the doors with gladness.
Paul charged the early Christians to “contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” (Romans 12:13). Hospitality and caring for the needs of others marks our faith. Nowhere did Paul qualify his command. He did not say, “Show hospitality but only if you have a lot of room and all of your possessions are neatly stored.” We don’t wait until everything seems perfect—we offer what we have and trust God to bless our guests.
By the grace of God, I did not hesitate for long before we invited guests into our new home. In fact, we’ve seen more feet travel through our 1,200-square-foot living space than we ever did in the same short period of time in our house.
As Christmas approaches, let’s remember that hospitality isn’t about the what, when, and where. It’s about the who. Hospitality is about the person we get to welcome in and love. We can trust that the Lord will bless those who come into our doors if we have hearts to serve and love them. Your guests might not remember your space, but they will surely remember your care.
Opening your home may seem like a major undertaking. But it’s small thanks to the Lord who gave everything to live among us and die on the cross in our place.