I love taking long walks along my picturesque country road. Out here I can be completely alone to think, pray, and just take a break. While strolling along, one thing that never fails to affront my sense of serenity is when my eyes fall on NO TRESPASSING signs. The words just seem so out of place among the otherwise tranquil farmland and rolling hills.
I know most notices are posted so hunters don’t run willy nilly through the back forty of everyone’s property. But I still give a little frown at the abrupt, hostile nature of those signs and the sentiment they imply: Stay out. You aren’t welcome here. This is MY property. Friends welcome, all others need not apply.
The truth is, I am often tempted to hang that sign on my door. Mine is just invisible.
I have a busy life and would love to view my home as my sanctuary. In our culture no one would fault me for that. Its pretty normal to consider our homes a place of respite from the busy chaotic world around us. We guard and protect this space because the world tells us we are entitled to it, we need it, and we should guard it at all costs.
That’s not to say that we never let others into our sanctuaries. We do. But for the most part the people we welcome into our private homes are our friends, family, and sometimes acquaintances. We have friends over for playdates and game night. We host dinner parties and throw down sleeping bags when family visits from out of town. So we do hospitality. With the people we know, anyway.
The problem with treating our homes like sanctuaries and limiting hospitality to friends is that its not Biblical. In the Bible, hospitality is this crazy scenario where you let strangers into your home. Strangers.
Its unsettling to think of our homes being a place where strangers are welcome. I mean, good grief … who in their right mind would let some stranger through the door?
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:2
You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:34
But we can’t justify our way out of the multiple commands to show hospitality to strangers. Because there are no qualifying statements to the mandate.
Nowhere in scripture is the directive to practice hospitality preceded by:
If you know the people
If your schedule permits
If you have a big house
If you cleaned the house and stocked the pantry
If you have a lull in kids activities
If its a good time for you
If your budget allows
If you aren’t too tired
If you have the gift of hospitality
But we use all of these reasons and more to wiggle our way out of true, biblical hospitality.
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you. Proverbs 3:27-28
When I read through the Bible I am struck with the examples of hospitality being shown at very very bad times. Here are just a few:
In 1Kings 17, A poor widow cares for Elijah despite the fact that she had nothing. She didn’t even have the money to run to Aldi for some pretzels and lemonade. “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.” But she gave what she had to Elijah. And God blessed her.
In Acts 28 Publius welcomes Paul into his home and shows him generous hospitality even though his father had fever and dysentery. DIARRHEA! Can you even imagine letting in a ragtag group of missionaries stay with you while grandpa is having bowel issues in the next room? But Paul prayed over the ailing father. And he was healed – along with others in the area.
In Luke 14 Jesus tells the host of a wedding “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Really, Jesus? Did you mean that?
I think he did. Because the pattern throughout scripture is hospitality being held as a high virtue. We are even told explicitly that hospitality is not meant to be viewed as an inconvenient interruption to our lives but an opportunity to serve Christ, himself.
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:37-40
In Romans 12, when listing the marks of a true Christian, we find the directive to “seek to show hospitality.” This is a command to not just practice but pursue hospitality. All of us who follow Christ should structure our lives so that we expect and even welcome disruptions to our routines.
What if we lived as though we truly believed our lives, homes, possessions, schedules … ALL of it … were the Lord’s?
Imagine the impact we can make in our communities if we set aside the distractions of this world and instead became a people who loved hard and loved well.
- Inviting co-workers, neighbors, new faces at church, and community acquaintances over for dinner
- Freely allowing your children to have friends over
- Flooding the foster care system with arms open wide
- Signing up as host families for kids whose parents are in crisis
- Declaring our homes as safe havens in the storm for families in crisis or even a stopping place on someone’s travels
- Making serving and tangibly loving others our highest priority rather than something we do on the side when time permits
I dream about a world where we take down the “No Trespassing” signs hanging on our property, possessions, and our lives and open our doors. Where we treat our homes as God’s homes and practice true, Biblical hospitality. Where a cup of coffee and listening ear are always available to those in need. Where a bed can be whipped up for a child who needs help or a meal shared with a struggling family.
Where it is not a shock to anyone or a drain on a family to entertain strangers because … that’s just what Christians do.
Why? Because we were shown radical love.
It scares me a little to even write this because I kinda like my little sanctuary. I don’t even have the gift of hospitality. My pantry is famous for being empty.
But I also know that change won’t happen until we stop dabbling in hospitality and start pressing in.
We have to keep the perspective that our homes are gifts to be used to bless others not as personal fortresses. I believe we can change the culture of Christianity back to the way God intended it. We can practice Biblical hospitality and let out homes truly shine like lighthouses in the storm.
And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not to be unfruitful. Titus 3:14
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