Hospitality is an old-fashioned concept that speaks to the pain in our broken world.
In a world where life has become increasingly disconnected and impersonal, the ritual and reality of welcoming those in need, or those on their way to a place, or those who have been displaced often gets lost. The ritual part of welcoming is as varied as cultures and families. But the reality is the same the world over. Welcoming people into our lives means there must be space for that, time for that, and courage to offer what we have of ourselves for the good of those who come across our path. In this day when so many are asking, “Do I have a place?” and “Where do I belong?” the invitation to come inside reassures and allows rest.
In a world where life has become increasingly divided, hospitality as a Christian ethic speaks to the hope and possibility of unity where it looks like none can exist. So much of the Old and New Testament devotes itself to the issues of Israel as an alienated people… enslaved… freed… dispersed… brought back together. These themes are literally cover-to-cover. And it’s not all nice and pretty. Many of the events and stories are of ungrateful, inhospitable people embraced and pursued by divine hospitality. In this day when many are wondering if they are good enough to have a voice at the table, the grace-full table develops strength that looks like courage.
In a world where identity in life has become increasingly ambiguous, hospitality practiced and offered becomes rooted not just as something we do, but someone we are. When this way of living is from our spirit and not just our home, it defines an identity that spills over into our group, culture, and nation. In this day when so many are asking “Who am I?” this spirit of welcome gives them something to come home to and find themselves.
In a world where transience can often lose the stability of grounding, hospitality is a link – a place of relationship between God and people, and us to each other. It is a practice that says, “I remember. I remember who I was, and now who I am. I know what it’s like to be foreign, both in spirit and in place. I remember the emptiness, the loneliness, the feeling that nothing mattered save finding welcome somewhere.” In this day when roots and place are hard to find, firm ground to plant our feet on is empowering and fosters confidence.
This remembering affects the way we see people. It leads us into an other-centeredness that insists that we see each person as one for whom Christ died. It changes our view of people so that we see less and less of their appearance, behavior, or other societal marks of acceptability. Instead, it opens us to the eyes of God – who sees the image bearer desperately needing to meet God.
In a world where consumerism and grasping are everywhere, this act of taking people into our lives and responding to their needs challenges our own sense of entitlement. Entitlement of time, possessions, thoughts, directions…Whatever we hold with tight, closed fists. Freedom from possession only can come when we understand how we are holding them and ask God to open our hands. In this day when many are asking the question, “Do you have time for me? Is there space for me with you?” we are challenged to let go, make space, and show them God.
With whom have you felt a warm, deep welcome? To whom do you offer that? What gets in the way of both receiving this kind of hospitality and giving it?