My heart holds sweet memories of every child I’ve ever hosted. Tucking them into bed. Laughing with them at funny mishaps and hugging them tight when they were hurt. Watching each one develop friendships with my children. Reading stories and talking about God. Getting to know their mamas. It’s been a holy privilege to love each child. And I pray for them often.
But still, I am convicted.
I know just how real the child welfare crisis is. I can rattle off the statistics about how many kids are homeless on any given night. I can cite the outcomes of foster care in my sleep. I know exactly how many calls are placed to child welfare every day in my state. And these kids are not nameless or faceless to me. They are real kids with real families and real needs.
I speak to pastors, churches and community groups about the work of caring for vulnerable children. I study the scriptures on hospitality and defending the widow and orphan. I attend national conferences on orphan care and read all the books. I train host families to do this work.
So I know.
Why am I convicted?
Because I do know about the crisis. Yet I, like so many, am quick to make excuses of why I can’t host here and I don’t have time there. I am quick to placate others who have family and work lives similar to mine. And most of our excuses are legitimate when viewed from the world’s perspective.
But if I stood before God with all of the excuses I give and conciliate, what would He say?
Would He say that he understands that I am busy? Would He nod in agreement that my days are booked with kid activities? Would He say he understands that I like my free time off? Would He say that he understands that it’s really not convenient to rearrange my kids sleeping arrangements? Would He say my house is too precious to share? My time too valuable to set aside? My need for peace and quiet too valuable?
Would He tell me the hurting world can wait?
I doubt it.
I wonder if God would point out that I have structured my life in such a way that I fit in hospitality when it is convenient rather than PURSUING it in obedience the way He instructs us to.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,
for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:2
When I read about hospitality in Scripture, I don’t see anywhere that this is some special calling only for the few. I don’t see it as a spiritual gift or something any of us get a pass on because our lives are too busy. The truth is, we ALL are supposed to be pursuing hospitality at some level.
Scripture clearly speaks to this issue. Here are just three examples:
Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. – Romans 12:13
But hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. – Titus 1:8
And having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.- 1 Timothy 5:10
There are no qualifiers in the verses. Just clear directives to make hospitality a priority in our lives.
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have,
for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:16
Pursuing hospitality doesn’t look the same for everyone. It might look like hosting children for me and fostering for someone else. It might look like inviting a new neighbor to dinner or watching a game with a lonely colleague. It might look like mentoring a young person or inviting an elderly friend for coffee.
But it should look like intentionally welcoming strangers, the marginalized, the hurting, the broken, the ones who look differently, think differently, behave differently into our homes.
Yes, into our HOMES.
Is it scary? Sure. But when did God ever ask us to take the easy road?
Is it inconvenient? Absolutely. But when did God ever tell us to only love when its convenient?
Is it worth it? A million times, yes. Because God doesn’t ask us to do anything that is contrary to His plan.
This much I know about the practice of hospitality: when we welcome strangers into our home, the very heartbeat of our family shifts. Our focus shifts. Our priorities shift.
When I am tangibly loving the hurting I am gutted and humbled and reminded of what truly matters in this world. My heart aligns with God in ways it never would if I just continued in my pursuit of the American Dream. And my attention turns towards the very thing God loves most – his people.
And there is nothing better than loving God’s people.
So maybe its time for me, for you, for all of us to really examine our hearts. Is there a way we can engage rather than excuse ourselves from this call? Could we dedicate time to open our homes come what may? Can we say no to the urgent so we can more readily say yes to the important? Can we leave margin in our schedules?
Can we step out of our comfort zones and dust off a seat at our tables? For one meal? For one day? For one week? For one season?
Because if our homes are meant to be weapons of kindness and rest in a weary world, then let’s start using them.