“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be…hospitable.” Yes, you read that right. I find it somewhat shocking that, capping off a list of things that seem quite spiritually significant and serious, like being self-controlled, sober-minded, and loving others, Peter tells us to: “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Pet. 4:7-8). Paul does the same thing in Romans 12.
Hospitality must be more than an activity reserved for the few among us with true culinary prowess or Joanna Gaines-worthy homes. Hospitality is a normal expectation for regular people who confess the name of Christ.
What Hospitality Isn’t
Hospitality isn’t about hosting events to entertain people. It’s about living ordinary lives and folding others into the mix. Jen Wilkin has a great article explaining the difference between entertainment and hospitality. The summary is: Entertainment seeks to impress, but hospitality seeks to bless.
In other words, hospitality isn’t about an immaculate house with a sumptuous meal, accompanied by pressed linens, apple crisp, and the ambiance of glowing candles and jazz (though, we can all agree those are nice). Hospitality isn’t something you do to catapult your social capital, as if you’re laboring to execute the event of the year.
Hospitality is about living your life before the face of God with the aim of blessing others in the process.
Just Add People
I’ve heard it said, “Don’t add things to your calendar. Add people.” Hospitality is a way of life, a pattern of being involved with others. It’s friendship.
Here’s a wild question: What’s something you already do that you could invite others into? That might obliterate the categories you normally think of, but when you break it down, hospitality is loving, welcoming, and serving others.
Meals are what we typically imagine, and I don’t think that’s a mistake, since food has a way of filling both bellies and souls. But being hospitable doesn’t have to be limited to your dining room table. There’s freedom to be creative.
Barriers & Practical Tips to Hospitality
Lots of obstacles hinder our hospitality. Let’s consider some of them, leaving room for honest self-assessment, and an appreciation for the grace of practical wisdom.
1. Our own time & commitments
Ask yourself the heart question: Is my busy schedule a result of prioritizing the wrong things? What can I prayerfully drop from my schedule to make space for hospitality?
Tip: Delegate, drop, delay, do. Look at your to-do list. What can you hand to someone else? What can you drop? What can be saved for later? Do what’s left. Hopefully, it’s a surprisingly shorter list!
Tip: Think about what matters in eternity. That might seem trite, but when it comes to schedules, we’re often blinded by the tyranny of the urgent. Take a step back, and honestly ask yourself: Will this matter in eternity? Frequently pray for God to give you wisdom to spend time on things that will last forever, and to have the courage to drop what won’t.
You might be in a temporary season where you’re unable to minister to those beyond your four walls. That’s okay. Endure with joy, and start fresh in a few weeks or months.
2. Stress about the location and time
Yes, yes, we all know your house is a mess. But what should we do about it?
Tip: Clean a little every day, and clean the bathrooms before the weekend. I do one load of laundry daily and one other chore, like vacuuming. You’ll find that a consistent pattern of cleaning frees you on the hectic days, and you have a lot less to worry about when people are coming in an hour.
Tip: If your house is still a disaster zone, try a different spot. It never hurts to invite friends to Chick-Fil-A, or to have a picnic. Heavens, you could even eat in the backyard! Getting creative with the location can be an extra fun way to be hospitable as a family. The kids can go crazy outdoors, you don’t have to worry about spilled drinks, and we can all breathe a little easier in fresh air and sunshine.
Tip: Find a time that works well for you and your family. It might be lunch after church, or it might be tea and dessert after the kids go down. It doesn’t have to revolve around a meal either. Go grocery shopping together, or, if you’re home, invite someone into your day with you.
And don’t neglect this question: Is my stress over my house coming from a heart that is seeking to bless or to impress?
3. The Meal: What on earth will I make?
There’s a time for homemade bread, and there’s a time for takeout. You know your life better than I do. Simple meals can be a huge win. You don’t have to break the bank or spend hours preparing a meal that can bless others.
Tip: Come up with one or two “go to” meals. Bonus points if they’re allergen friendly. Rice, crockpot meals, and fruits or veggies are usually great.
Tip: Grocery pick-ups can be a life saver. Grab a rotisserie chicken, fruit, and Hawaiian rolls, and voila, a meal for four!
Tip: If all else fails, takeout doesn’t.
Remember, most people care more about the fellowship you’re sharing than the food you’re eating.
One day at a time, one season at a time
The practical outworking of what hospitality looks like can ebb and flow with different seasons, but the virtue of hospitality should always be something we’re cultivating, and cultivate it we must.
As Annie Dillard famously wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” If day after day passes by, and your table remains empty, and your heart toward others is cold, you will have lived a sad and inhospitable life. On the other hand, if you plod forward a day at a time, a season at a time, you will look back at the end of your life and have a heart satisfied with the richness of fellowship and will fondly relish Jesus’ words: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35, ESV).
Katelyn Cerrito is a wife, mother, counselor, and theological student. This post first appeared on the blog of the Center for Faith and Culture at Southeastern Seminary.