By Beth Seversen
Tired from working all day, I dragged my feet up the steps of a beautiful Tudor home. My husband was all cheerful about our dinner invitation, extended by a couple from church I had not met. Just as he rang the doorbell I spouted out, “This is the last thing I want to do on a Friday night, and I am not going to enjoy myself.” The door opened and an elegant woman, 20 years my senior, greeted me with a hug and a kiss. She ushered me into her kitchen, and I found myself sipping iced tea and chopping vegetables. All the while she was smiling, chatting about how she hated cooking, and asking intelligent questions about my work.
What was it that warmed my heart to Polly? Was it her lovely home, her delicious dinner, or her striking appearance? Not really, as her home was furnished with estate sale pieces, dinner was simply burgers on the grill and a salad, and she wore jeans and a sweater. None of these things contributed to the warmth I felt as we drove home later that evening. It was her inviting personality that warmed me. I believe she opened the door to her life that night and invited me to walk in, nose around, and curl up by the hearth of her heart.
A Reputation for Hospitality
According to Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, hospitable is defined as being “given to generous and cordial reception of guests,” “offering a pleasant and sustaining environment,” and “readily receptive: open, open to new ideas.” The word hospitable is not necessarily linked to our homes, but refers to our reception and treatment of others and to our personal disposition. So often when we consider being hospitable, our minds run to collecting toys off the floor, fixing that special dessert, and making our homes ready for our guests. But if we consider the full definition of hospitable, we are challenged to evaluate how inviting and welcoming we are as a person. What is my general disposition? Crabby? Angry? Complaining? When someone passes me in the church hallway or at the grocery store what do they observe on my countenance? Irritation? Self-absorption? Disinterest?
In 1 Timothy 5:10, Paul tells Timothy to put women who have been known for their hospitality on a list of widows who may receive care from fellow believers. This Scripture implies that all Christian women are to have a reputation for showing hospitality. Paul did not mean that our homes must look like the cover of Southern Living, nor that we must be as talented in our home cooking, presentation, and craftiness as Martha Stewart. His intention was that women who love Christ might show that love in the way they welcome and treat the people God places in our lives. We are to be generous, cordial, pleasant, and open -- open to new ideas, open to change, and open to sharing ourselves with believers and unbelievers alike.
Focus On Your Guest
Biblical hospitality encourages us to relax and enjoy people. To shift our focus from the material to the spiritual. Floors may remain unmopped. Kitchen cupboards don't need to be full of homemade goodies. I can't tell you how many times I have stood before my refrigerator and muttered a “loaves-and-fishes” prayer under my breath, asking God for His creativity and provision to feed a friend - once serving scrambled eggs on toasted hamburger buns as a result! But we had one of the best conversations about the Lord. God's idea of hospitality gives us the freedom to be our less-than-perfect selves and concentrate on caring for the real needs of a friend or a stranger.
What does real hospitality look like? I imagine something like a young child's sunny face and sticky fingers. Little ones always seem glad to see us no matter what they are doing and without a care for the state of their bedroom! They greet us with a smile and usually want us to pitch in and join them in finger painting, mud-pie baking, or whatever they are enjoying. They are a little like Polly, putting me at ease by putting me to work. Just like children, we should be ready to welcome the invited and the uninvited into our lives and our living space. The good news is that becoming hospitable is something you can develop and learn over time. It may come less naturally to you but you can become hospitable.
Begin with prayer. Pray that the Lord Jesus would help you become more focused on people and relationships than on tasks. Pray that you might have Christ's interest and the interests of others at heart. Give God your home, your office, yourself in prayer and ask Him how He might like to use these today, this week. Ask God to make you more friendly, less preoccupied, and more interested in your neighbors, coworkers, and relatives.
As you seek to obey God in practicing hospitality, He will bless you, and it will become easier to communicate with genuine warmth, to be more approachable, and to become an inviting woman of God.