“Hospitality is when someone feels at Home in your presence”
– Author Unknown –
A few words that she has probably long forgotten changed me forever.
When I was a young teenager, I looked at Tara with something like awe.
She was the epitome of who I wanted to be when I grew up — a 20-something glowing with joy and overflowing with encouragement.
Once, Tara smiled at me and exclaimed to me that God’s glory was shining in my face. I was so floored that she would say that to me! I wrote her words in my journal, to imprint them on paper the same way she had imprinted them on my heart.
That was about 10 years ago, and my heart still warms when I recall her kind words. We were never close friends. But, as she brushed shoulders with me, she left a little of herself behind.
Six months ago or so, a close friend reminded me of when I first met a mutual acquaintance. “She said you were the first one to welcome her to our church,” my friend told me.
I was stunned that something I barely remember made such an impact on this girl that she was still telling people about it 3 or 4 years later. It makes me smile, how God so often uses the everyday words and the casual moments to change the world. Maybe that sounds too general, too ambitious–maybe “changing the world” has been claimed so often that we’re cautious to believe it could be true.
But isn’t it true, that in some small way, Tara changed the world for me that day a decade ago? It wasn’t loud or obvious. No fireworks or cannon shots or fanfare announced it.
She didn’t know–I didn’t even know–how deep her encouragement would nestle into my soul over the years.
I’ve been learning about hospitality, and it’s been something of a revelation.
I don’t have to wait until I’m a homeowner, or turn a particular age, or reach a certain level of wisdom before I can “invite people in” with my life.
Because hospitality is about creating a space around you for others to be refreshed.
So ministry is not something you go to; it is something you take along with you. Hospitality is more a way of thinking or a way of being, than a certain behavior at a certain location.
It is about an others-centered life–a life so filled up by communion with God that, in abundant overflow, it extends to others.
I recently realized that I more easily succumb to self-centered thoughts rather than self-important ones. My adopted grandma told me this was how she used to think, and I immediately realized it fit my approach to life perfectly. I will readily admit to you my own sinfulness…but I will also spend a great deal of every day consumed with my reactions, my thoughts, my approaches, my conscience, my theology, my mistakes, my sins. Even things that can be good–like confessing sin or analyzing doctrine–ensnare me because I get so wrapped up in my own inner life that I become radically centered around myself, without knowing it.
This is the opposite of the attitude of hospitality. Hospitality springs out of a heart of service, a heart focused on the good of others–even others that do not deserve it. Just like Jesus washed his disciples’ feet–even the feet of the man only hours from denying Him and the man who had just sold Him. (For more lessons from Christ’s Upper Room teachings, you might enjoy this sermon series by Sinclair Ferguson that my church is currently studying. It inspired part of this post.)
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”
– Philippians 2:3-7, ESV –
So this mindset, which is “ours in Christ Jesus” is this attitude of selfless serving, a grace-fueled outpouring of love.
Tara showed me hospitality, even though I never ate a cake she baked or stepped a foot into her home. Her speech made a little shelter for me, right where we were. Her kindness created an indelible memory for me, in that moment. I have no recollection of where we were when she spoke to me. I just remember the hospitality of her presence.
There is a meeting of souls that takes place when we, like Jesus, take off the outer garments of station or occupation and kneel in service at the feet of another, whether that person is a believer or an unbeliever, a John or a Judas. Taking off the external barriers and putting on the towel of humility creates the atmosphere of life-changing hospitality.
Tara put on the towel of humility by bowing to the level of a young teen and investing in a person she barely knew.
“It’s likely that every day presents an opportunity for you to practice radical hospitality to someone with whom you cross paths. There is no shortage of people who could use the fit of a caring, welcoming person in their life. How awesome would it be if, in a time of need, the first thing people would say is, “I need a Christian!” If you expect to be that person, you’ll be surprised at how often the opportunities come along for you to show love through radical hospitality.” – Thom Schultz –
Radical hospitality can be done anywhere. Whether you are at home or on the go today, pray that God directs you to speak and act in ways that bring life to those around you.
Today, may your presence be a place of grace, where the Gospel comes alive. As author Mabel Hale says, be a “sunshine maker.” His wells of joy are yours for the filling.
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.”
– Romans 12:10-13, NASB –