Scripture makes it clear. We are to show hospitality to friend and stranger alike...
The Case for Hospitality
by Michelle Forlines
In our highly individual, single-family, independent, safety first, busy, two-income household nation, hospitality often has a difficult time finding a place. But aren’t we called to be hospitable? Should we as followers of Christ try to battle this lack of hospitality?
Scripture highlights many examples of hospitality. Elijah was housed and fed by the widow and her son. The Israelites welcomed strangers and travelers into their midst. Rahab took the spies into her home (risky business) and was
welcomed by the Israelites. Jesus relied on the hospitality of others. Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Zaccheus, and Pharisees all welcomed Jesus into their homes.
The first disciples were sent out without any provisions and told to rely on the hospitality of others. The early Christians constantly met in each other’s homes to worship and pray and break bread together. Scripture demonstrates hospitality shown to strangers and enemies as well as to brothers and sisters in Christ.
Hospitality is a vital part of life in many cultures. So who better to ask about the practice of hospitality than a missionary who does an excellent job of demonstrating it in her host culture?
Barbara and Jerry Gibbs have been missionaries in St. Nazaire, France, for almost 35 years.
Barbara has the gift of hospitality and practices it weekly. Barbara and Jerry encourage people to stop by their home anytime. They welcome travelers to France. They receive people with needs into their home each week for counseling and encouragment. “In France, if you can open your home, then you are ahead,” says Barbara, “because people will talk while sitting around a table in a way they otherwise wouldn’t.” Hospitality is a vital element of their ministry.
How can we offer hospitality? When Mary and Martha welcomed Jesus into their home, Martha was busy and distracted, seeking to make everything nice. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening and talking. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things,” said Jesus, “but one thing is needed. Mary has chosen that good part which will not be taken away from her.”
What is that good part? “Don’t stress about the small things,” says Barbara. “Realize the biggest gift you have is your open home, making people feel at home.” And, some practical advice, “Always have something in the cupboard that is quick and easy to make!”
So for those who feel inept at showing hospitality, follow the example of Scripture, other cultures, and Barbara Gibbs. Let’s obey the call to show hospitality to others despite feelings of inadequacy, discomfort, selfishness, and fear. Let’s be generous with the homes and resources God has given us. After all, we might entertain angels unaware.
About the Writer: Michelle Forlines works as a nurse on a mobile unit in inner-city Memphis. She and her husband Dane live with another married couple in an urban neighborhood where they seek to learn more about God's heart.