Hospitality is an idea that gets thrown around a lot in church. Many people in society and from all walks of life say they like hosting people and entertaining guests. But I sometimes think we have misunderstood what it is meant to be, and try to over complicate it instead of keeping it simple. If we stopped overthinking it, our relationships would be stronger.
I have always been involved in churches which emphasise community and relationships. They always highlighted the need (alert, Christian jargon coming up) for us to ‘do life together’.
Essentially, it’s about realising the value of forming deep relationships, and intentionally pursuing them, so that we can support each other. Whether that means spiritually, emotionally, or just having people around us that we can laugh with.
It Feels Like A Burden?
But the reality is that people struggle to host. Or approach it with dread.
The number of times I’ve said to people or they have said to me ‘we need to get together for dinner or something’. Then it never happens. Or we pull out our diaries, and I’m hoping they say we can go round to theirs so I don’t need to put in the effort of organising the meal. But why is that the case?
I think it comes down to a misconception that says: Hospitality is about impressing.
Need To Impress
Without trying to make too big a sweeping statement, many other cultures have the reputation of giving good hospitality. There are always loads of people in each other’s houses. People can turn up on the doorstep and the host drops everything and invites them in, etc.
Yet there are many of us who believe we need to put a date in the diary, clean the house, go and get the best food, etc.. In other words; it’s an event. One that takes time and the thought is ‘I need to make it an occasion’.
Hosting then becomes something we gear up for
We see hosting as a time to impress.
This is on top of the fact that we often see our homes as a retreat, as a shelter, as space we own to relax. Which isn’t bad in itself, but then having people coming over, especially if they are new, is seen as a sacrifice of that space we protect. It’s an invasion of our home.
Hosting then becomes something we gear up for and can feel like hard work. (Read The Simple Trick For Better Relationships That Most People Ignore)
Experience Over Information
The reason I think hospitality is important is because I think just hanging out with people, inviting people into your home and vice versa, is where relationships are formed. When we see each other just being ‘normal’ in their home, it’s when we learn from each other.
For example, I can barely remember the advice my parents gave me. Not because it was bad, but growing up in my family home for 22 years, lots was said and I don’t remember most of it.
But I remember seeing how my parents treated each other. I remember that they never got violent or verbally abusive towards each other. I remember seeing them going out of their way to help people who were struggling. I remember them always helping me and making me laugh.
I have close friends I’ve known for 15 plus years now, and again, can’t remember most of what they have said, but I remember them praying for me when I needed it. I remember us hanging out lots and feeling like I could ask for support and trust them.
Deep relationships come from spending time with each other. Despite what our culture says, more information will not result in deeper friendships with people. Yes, deep conversations are important, but spending time together I think is just as important.
We need to learn from other cultures and people who do hosting well. Who invite people in when the house is a mess. Who are cooking a basic meal, but say ‘you can stay if you want’ and just add in an extra handful of pasta to the pot, rather than aranging a later date for when we have the ingredients to make a spectacular dish.
It’s just an opportunity to invite people into what is already going on
We need to remember that our home is ultimately a blessing and gift from God. To be used as a place to relax, but also a place to bless others.
We need to remember people come to see us, and not our housework.
We need to remember hospitality is about creating time to form deep friendships. It’s not an event or time to impress. It’s just an opportunity to invite people into what’s already going on. (Read Why Friendships Are Too Easy To Break, And How To Avoid It.)
We all have different challenges, different jobs and different personalities. We are all at different stages of life. So hospitality will look different and be different to different people.
But imagine if we didn’t see hosting as a time to impress or entertain, but just as a time to share what we’re already doing with others, and build a deeper friendship and connection in these authentic moments. (Read 2 Things You Should Always Do To Build Strong Communities)
How would your culture/community define hospitality? Comments welcome below