Do you know how it feels to have someone invite you over only to find they wanted you to hear a sales pitch on a new vitamin plan or make-up plan they are trying to sell? When that happens to me, I feel manipulated and highjacked. Here I was looking forward to catching up with the person and having a nice visit and they had an agenda. They wanted to sell me something. What a disappointment. It can feel that way to a visitor if it turns out you are trying to witness to them when they thought they were coming for a visit and your plan is to “present the gospel.”
Presenting the gospel doesn’t always have to be in words as was demonstrated in the book by Rosaria Butterfield. The most profound ways of presenting it are by showing it first…over and over. The words come later inside a relationship that has been formed. Often, it comes as a result of questions but on questions after the relationship has deepened.
It was beautiful to read the ways the pastor and his wife became Rosaria’s friends by way of hospitality. They answered questions, often the questions of her heart, not baited questions. That takes an immense amount of wisdom! They loved her in subtle ways such as serving vegan meals, turning off the air conditioning when they realized her concerns about the environment and the demands power made on it. How easy it is for us to get on our personal pulpits to make our stands…but they didn’t. They loved her for over two years as Jesus drew her to Himself. I’m certain it wasn’t always comfortable for them. But that wasn’t the important thing, was it?
The root word for hospitality is hospital.
It is no accident that the root word for hospitality is hospital. We understand that all of us including ourselves, are broken people. Everyone who walks through the door of our home is broken. We may not know in what way, but we treat them with care, respect and in the same way we would treat someone who is wounded. They may look fantastic or downtrodden. It makes no difference.
When we learn the ways in which they are wounded and broken, we bind their wounds with care and love. We live out a way of life that shows them Jesus in whatever way is genuine for us. We answer questions with love, wisdom and care…not arrogance, correction and the desire to be right!
What are our true values? Hospitality shows them up for sure.
And that is the thing about hospitality. It shows up my real values. I want to be hospitable, but my entertaining heart often shows itself. If something about the meal messes up…I serve it anyway, or make do. And that’s the difference between hospitality and entertainment. Hospitality ministers to people. Entertainment is showing off…my talent, my cooking, my house…me. Hospitality is about the other person. The food is less important. The setting is less important. I am serving them and want to make it a place for them to feel comfortable and at home.
Hospitality comes in all kinds of styles. Formal, informal and everything in between. The way you share your hospitality looks different with all kinds of people! There is no formula. That is the great thing about it. GOD uses all kinds of people in all kinds of ways.
He won’t bring people that need C.S. Lewis or Francis Schaeffer if that’s not you…even if they think that’s what they need. He brings people to you who need you and the uniqueness of your gifts. It never hurts to say you don’t know an answer to a question and you’ll research it. It grows you. It is humbling. That is all good! In the meantime, continue to grow your friendship with respect and humility. I learned that from Rosaria. (I learned from Ron that it is okay to say you don’t know the answer to a question and you will find out!)
We hope and pray they will see something they want from their time in our home. We hope that conversation will be meaningful and uplifting…and will do all we can to make it so. But underlying all we do is a desire to minister to the person(s) coming into our home. True humility speaks volumes. Reaching out in genuine love and mercy touches hearts. In the meantime, GOD works…often slowly.
When people come into your home, are you showing real hospitality?
It will rarely be pure, but ask GOD to work in your heart to grow it.
Ways to grow/develop hospitality:
- Work with others to minister to groups of people: older adults, single parents, college kids after church, etc. you will grow in your use of hospitality without having to do everything yourself!
- Plan a simple meal and have ingredients on hand for surprise hospitality or have a meal in the crockpot one Sunday and be ready to invite someone home for lunch.
- Invite someone you don’t now well from church over for a meal or invite a neighbor to share a meal. With summer coming on, it is easy to invite for a cookout if you have the tools, even if you eat inside.
- Find creative ways to invite your neighbors over to get to know them. Sadly, I’m not good at this. I need help on this one. Rosaria describes so many ways she is a good neighbor that I have never thought of. I have much to learn.