hospitality to the saints and the sinners

i stood at the kitchen sink with suds on hands and impatience in eyes, finishing the last of the dishes before the guests came. it was thursday. the one day of the week that, though fulfilling, is chalk full and every minute is penned into a mental planner.

i love thursdays. it's the day i have all the classes i enjoy, the day i have a perfect time slot to work out, the day i meet with two girls who started off as near strangers and are now friends and we talk about the lord and our mission here, its the day i do a deep cleaning (and yes, i find this thoroughly enjoyable), its the day i bake and its the day twelve or so girls become a mosaic of unique senses of humor, different stories of their life and god, various struggles and victories and all gather in the little home i live in called mercy house and we watch gilmore girls, drink coffee and eat yummy treats. 

thursdays are awesome, y'all. but i don't tend to be one that enjoys an hour-by-hour schedule. i like spontaneity. i like not knowing what i need to do, but just going with the flow. so this day is good for me.

it's teaching me to manage time well, to live well even in a schedule and it is teaching me that hospitality is a discipline.

i used to never think of being hospitable as discipline i must cultivate, strive after, depend upon the lord for because he knows just how hard it can be. to me, hospitality was fun and it looked like the cover of a martha stewart magazine and the home smelled of cookies and all was laughter in the house as people gathered.

hospitality does not look like that.

hospitality looks like me at the steering wheel close to tears rushing to get whipped cream because the pumpkin pie is no good without whipped cream and it's been a long day and i feel a headache coming on and then crumbling before the feet of god as he asks me, "savannah, why are you doing this?

why are you having people over tonight? is it for me? to cultivate the sort heart i have that welcomes the prodigals and delights in their coming home? or are you doing this because it makes you feel better, makes you look good, fulfills some desire you have?"

and like cyndi lauper sang my true colors started shining through and i was ashamed. this isn't about me. this isn't about everything being perfect.

this is about gathering people together in one's home in hope that they will feel the love of christ in this action and come to him. this is about being a safe place for people to ask questions about god, take their mind off of their worries and feel at rest. this is about the lonely and the broken-hearted having a haven to run to. this is about my name and the delicious food and the low lighting and the warm drinks fading away and god coming into light; his love being all is seen and heard and talked about.

jon pollock michel wrote an article on desiring god titled hospitality, sacrifice and delight in god that said this: "in the abstract, i cherish the idea of guests in our home. in reality, i always feel a little too busy and a little too tired. this makes hospitality, at least for me, a discipline, a theologically-driven practice. i know what i believe about god and my role in the world. hospitality summons me to live in ways congruent to those beliefs."

hospitality is a spiritual discipline; a command all throughout scripture to be hospitable to the stranger and the saint, the wanderer and the brother. why are we called to be hospitable? for we once were "aliens in egypt." we once were sinners without a home. we once were strangers wandering this earth when god showed us hospitality, showed us welcome, showed us his home and didn't just invite us in for a visit---he invited us to stay!

our god is the best host. his character is one that full of hospitality. so we must live as he lived, invite people in as he invites people in, welcome the prodigals as he welcomed our wretched, prodigal soul.

and not only must we cultivate this discipline but we must realize just how serious this act of hospitality is. steve childers claims that the way the key to evangelism in present day america is hospitality.  why? because what do people do nowadays? wake up, go to work, pick up the kid from soccer and come home. there is very little going out, walking about the town, social gatherings. and there is sadly very little inviting your neighbor to dinner, asking that co-worker to coffee. we too as christians keep our little routine (but throw in a few church events for the fellowship we want).

john piper says that hospitality must be strategic. yes, invite people over but realize the depths of this invitation, brainstorm how your hospitality can become bigger, recognize that this is the means we obey the command to contribute to the needs of the saints and do not neglect the needs of the strangers. this is how we evangelize to the lost and encourage and equip the disciples. piper said this:
Strategic hospitality . . . asks: How can I draw the most people into a deep experience of God’s hospitality by the use of my home . . . ? Who are the people who could be brought together in my home most strategically for the sake of the kingdom? . . .
Strategic hospitality is not content to just have the old clan over for dinner again and again. It strategizes how to make the hospitality of God known and felt all over the world, from the lonely church member right here, to the Gola farmers in Tahn, Liberia. Don’t ever underestimate the power of your living room as a launching pad for new life and hope and ministry and mission!

so my question to you is this: are you showing hospitality to the saints and the strangers? do you know your neighbors? do you care more about the carpet being vacuumed then the fellowship being had? do you talk to your co-workers? do you enjoy helping the brothers and sisters in your life (for we are called to serve them without grumbling)? do you care more about the lasagna being perfect than the sinner being fed? are the only guests coming to your home believers? if a missionary is in town and needs a place to stay are you the first to offer a bed (or couch)? do you strategically show hospitality?

"if welcome is so fundamental to the nature of God, hospitality is one practice for growing into our likeness of and desire for him. as we invite people into our homes, we assume the role of father and re-enact the divine love we have ourselves received. every mopped floor, every baked loaf, every minute standing behind the counter of the cheese emporium allow us to enter into what God has been doing from the beginning of time: loving humanity by his welcome." (jen pollock michel)

there are so many great resources to encourage you on the journey toward hospitality but remember this... even if you don't have it all figured (do any of us?) just invite your co-worker over for dinner. oswald chambers said it is easy for us to get so bogged down by methods that we never do what we are commanded to do! so just start with an invitation. pray that the lord will be there as you feed an empty belly and ask that he will be the bread for their soul.

hospitality, sacrifice and delight in god

hospitality and the great commission

kitchen grace and the great commision

lifeingraceblog.com (this blogger gives a lot of good recipe ideas, cleaning tips, etc. just practical stuff! but also talks regularly on why hospitality is so important!)

p.s. the picture above is from my favorite night... thursdays! gilmore girls, coffee and sweetest friends. :)