the cycle of seclusion
It’s been a long day. You are exhausted as you pull into your garage and close the door behind you, grateful for a neighborhood that values seclusion as much as you do. Life regularly looks like closed doors and quiet evenings.
On Sunday your pastor might mention hospitality. You cringe a little and decide to invite some friends over for board games and pizza. You feel content and believe you have fulfilled Scripture’s requirement.
Your days are filled with more social media than social engagement, and even though you want to make a difference in the world, you think your life is just too full, your time already too spent, your money already going to too many important things. Your children spend their days at school and evenings at sporting events. You flow between work and carpooling, and you treasure those moments of quiet seclusion when the garage door finally comes down.
Then 1 Peter 4:9 and Romans 15:7 crash into your conscience and you schedule a coffee date with a friend.…
This is the cycle of Christianity I lived in for a while, and I fear I was not alone.
the better way
Hospitality commands in Scripture are not only to be obeyed when you can squeeze them into your already-overflowing calendar, when you really need a good photo for Instagram, or when there is extra room in the budget. Hospitality is supposed to be a way of life for Christians. It is a primary means by which God has blessed the church throughout history and it is a primary means by which He intends to do that in your church today!
As an example, in the mid-1500s as the reformation was spreading, gospel-empowered preaching was taking root in hearts while intense backlash also left new believers struggling to define their Christianity in the midst of persecution.
Anna was a Catholic nun who had converted to Christianity and married Heinrich Bullinger. The world did not allow them a honeymoon phase, but instead filled their hearts and home with work and a steady flow of ministry opportunities. Anna gave birth to 11 children in almost as many years. But the intensity of raising that many young children did not discourage her from additional ministry.
Instead, her home was consistently filled: she cared for her husband’s parents; students often lived with them; they took in a widow and her children; Protestant refugees found a haven in Anna and Heinrich’s care (up to 80 people at one time!), and they hosted prominent foreign guests such as John Calvin.
Anna’s life of hospitality extended beyond her home as she helped meet the needs of the city’s poor. Many in Zurich called her “mother.”
Hospitality is often laden with hours of mundane tasks, as we know it was for Anna. It is filled with dishes and laundry and inconvenience and selflessness. But hospitality has been the tradition of Christians for our entire history. Christianity has never been a friend of convenience or seclusion. Christianity has been filled with open hearts and open homes, which begs the question: why does the Western church not see this as our rule?
Too often hospitality is seen as an optional part of the Christian life, meant for those with a particular gifting, or as something we can offer on a very scheduled, very mandated occasion. But the Bible and Christian history know nothing of this limited kind of offering.
Christian hospitality is to be done without complaint (1 Peter 4:9). It is to meet the physical needs of others (Romans 12:13). It is meant to display for the world a picture of how God welcomes us (Romans 15:7). Christian hospitality is a serious and important endeavor, and it is a joy to those who extend it, as well as those who receive it.
So we ask, “What does hospitality look like today? Is it relegated to close friends and well-planned nights? Does that answer Scripture’s call?”
I don’t believe so. Instead it appears from Scripture that believers are meant to be together regularly, if not daily (Acts 2:46). Hospitality fuels our opportunities to fulfill the “one another” commands. We are able to love one another, bear one another’s burdens, confront one another, and live at peace with one another—only if we are actually with one another.
more than open doors
But that is not its only function. Hospitality is also a beautiful way to evangelize, utilized by our Lord Himself (Luke 19; John 3). Unbelievers regularly welcomed into our daily lives begin to see what redemption accomplishes. They view our imperfections and our responses. They see our repentance over the sin that may seem so casual to them, and they know there is something different. Relationships in the modern age are becoming virtual and it is the act of living out the Christian faith in the Christian home that shows unbelievers we are not of this world.
Today, we can follow the example of believers like Anna Bullinger and live out hospitality in a transformative way. When our homes and schedules become interruptible and approachable, the God we represent is represented well.
May our goal and joy in Christian hospitality be to build up believers for the coming day when Christ will gather us to His home and eat with us (Revelation 19). May our passion in Christian hospitality be to make much of Christ so believers and unbelievers recognize His stamp on our lives and long for Him. May modern Christianity not forsake its long history. May we link arms with brothers and sisters from ages past and use the mundane moments of our lives for the glory of God and the good of people made in His image. May our open doors be the means by which God opens hearts.
Katie Deckert is a pastor’s wife and mom who loves the Church and is passionate about hospitality. She blogs at Hospitable Homemaker.