A Godly Hospitality
A Kindred Story by Summer Sneed
I’m from the South. The region of the United States that is infamous for warm hospitality. Every kitchen in the South is typically well-stocked with an arsenal of casserole dishes ready to be filled with secret recipes for any potluck or planned occasion. This is the culture that I was raised in, and I thrive on creating a welcoming and nurturing environment in my home where other people feel comfortable. I find the most fulfilment in getting the atmosphere prepared perfectly for the event to happen without any need to be the center of attention or part of small-talk. In other words, I like to control and set the picture-perfect stage for other people to enjoy community without actually engaging in it myself.
This uncomfortable discovery has taken a few years for me to recognize and admit. Nine years ago, my husband and I moved to Kenya as teachers. Life in a new culture with its own set of traditions taught me quickly that Southerners do not have the corner on hospitality. I learned that in Kenya your home is expected to have a more open-door policy and consequently, you must always have a thermos of hot chai and fruit or cookies on hand for the inevitable unannounced visitor. In the beginning, I balked and resented this expectation. My home is my refuge. Don’t I have the right to be in control of who enters my doorway and when they do it? Then I experienced the flip-side of this new culture. I became friends with people of various ethnicities and religions. I would turn up spontaneously at their door and find a genuinely happy reaction with a hot cup of tea ready to welcome me inside. I was challenged as a Christian to create this kind of atmosphere in my own home.
Another part of this discovery came when I recently read Rosaria Butterfield’s, “The Gospel Comes with a House Key.” I ordered the book a little smugly, thinking that she would pat me on the back as I read through the pages. Instead, I found myself wiping tears of conviction. She writes beautifully about how her family keeps their home open to the community around them. Biblical hospitality is their chosen lifestyle, and she argues that it should be for every Christian. It is a lifestyle that welcomes in strangers. Strangers, with messiness and pain, that become beloved neighbors and friends, and then eventually become brothers and sisters in Christ. This lifestyle of Biblical hospitality is not easy or convenient. Rosaria describes it like this, “God’s mercy poured out on the cross, emboldening us to keep the door of our homes open to others…[it] does not replace the church—it brings the church to the people. It meets people with gospel grace where they are. It leaves them yearning for more.” This kind of hospitality goes far beyond Southern or Kenyan hospitality. It requires prayer, sacrifice, intentionality and transparency. Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to reveal how we can develop a lifestyle of Biblical hospitality as we welcome others into the home He has given us here on earth and in heaven.