Saturday, January 26, 2013

Radical hospitality (plus a book giveaway)

J. and I spent our morning today at a Safe Families training. I and a friend had helped to organize this training with the hope that people in our church and community would agree to be a Safe Family. While we can't actually be a Safe Family (it's a matter of number children in the home... DCFS regulations and all... it's all part of being 'outside acceptable parameters'), having now taken the regular training, we can take the further training and become a coach for active Safe Families. Plus, we can also open our home to any teenage mothers who are over 18 and need a place to go. It will be a new adventure.

But there was something in the training which I wanted to share with you. In the section dealing with Biblical hospitality (one of my favorite areas to read and think about, by the way), there were some interesting quotes. Here they are:

  • "The Christian writer Tertullian (AD 200) wrote, 'It is our care of the helpless, our practice of loving-kindness that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents.'"
  • "When the early church was fully alive in engaging culture and significantly impacting the 'least of these,' the practice of offering care to strangers (hospitality) became a distinguishing characteristic."
  • "The practice of Christian hospitality was most vibrant during the first five centuries of the church. It provided credibility (word and deed) and distinguished the church from its surrounding environment."
  • "Hospitality was one of the foundational ministries of the early church, vehicle for the spread of the Gospel. Christians were to regard hospitality to strangers as a fundamental expression of the Gospel."
  • "Do not forget to entertain strangers [hospitality], for by doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2"
I find it interesting that is was the early church's extreme hospitality that set it apart from the surrounding culture. Extreme meaning that the early Christian's hospitality extended to those deemed as the least. Hospitality was highly regarded in the ancient world. I found this quote on an online parallel Bible site, "The Romans regarded any violation of the rites of hospitality as impiety. Cicero says: 'It seems to me eminently becoming that the homes of distinguished men should be open to distinguished guests, and that it is an honor to the Republic that foreigners should not lack this kind of liberality in our city" (De Off. ii.18).'" So it wasn't just the hospitality aspect which set the Christians apart, but their hospitality to the helpless to use Tertullian's term. That's what was different.

Extreme or radical hospitality. It doesn't have to be something we read about and vaguely wish could happen again. It should be something that never stopped. This is our chance to be like King Josiah in 2 Kings 23, where the law is rediscovered after having been lost and King Josiah restores the keeping of the law. We can restore the practice of radical hospitality that was common in the early church. If our homes are really God's homes, then we can be generous with them; we can open them to people in need and show them God's love. This is what people are hungry for. And then when people ask why you would do such a thing, it provides the perfect opportunity to explain that we are the recipients of Jesus' great love and are merely sharing that love with others. It's not that we are able to do such things ourselves, but that Jesus' love works through us.

A friend of mine posted on her facebook page not long ago, sharing how her church was ministering to her and her family during a particularly difficult period. There were acts of service and acts of love shown to them over and over. One of the comments written on her status was, "Boy, I wish I attended your church." How sad. How utterly sad that my friend's church seems like such an anomaly when for Christians this should not strike any believer as unusual, but business as usual. 

Do not accept this. But part of not accepting this is to do something about it yourself. Open your home. Open your home to a child who needs a safe place to stay. Open your home to an orphan who needs a family. Open your home to a single person who is lonely. Open your home to someone recovering from an illness. Open your home. It doesn't matter what kind of home you live in or how your home is decorated or how spotless it is. What really matters is the love and care and compassion to be found within its walls. Let's all work, each and everyone one us, to practice such extreme hospitality that it is the first thing that people think of when they hear the name Christian. 
Now, having made it this far, I'll reward you with a book giveaway! In our bags at the training was the book, Castaway Kid: one man's search for hope and home by R. B. Mitchell, published by Focus on the Family. It tells the story of man who spent his life in an American orphanage. We have an extra copy and here's how you can win it. Leave a comment telling about an experience of hospitality. I'll leave it open through January 30th and I'll announce the winner on the 31st.


Anonymous said...

God has allowed us to open our home once a month to anywhere from 5-10 families for an evening of family worship time. It is such a blessing to sweet fellowship with whole families together. We usually have 40-60 people in our home, half of whom are little people. It is work to host that many people, but the benefits make all the effort worthwhile.
Kim Crawford

Diana said...

Last year I was able to host a friend of an acquaintance who was from Taiwan. It is always neat to learn about other cultures and let them learn about yours.

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of hospitality. It's something that I've learned from my mother. I think the "Oh, it's just ____. They're practically family" is a wonderful sentiment. It's one I hope others feel when I visit them, actually. But my mom, she is a master decorator and even though she gets stressed over visitors, everything looks wonderful. This year for Christmas she made special vegan cookies for the SIL, not something she had to do. She had emailed us a few weeks prior to our arrival to ask what sort of things she should have to eat in the house (with a vegan and a milk allergy, kind of a hassel) and just lots of other thoughtful things. This is something I try to do as well. I love setting a beautiful table, making sure everyone has a drink, that there's plenty of toilet paper (not always an obvious thing), that the evil cat is locked up and won't attack anyone or whatever. One day a dear friend said as she left my place that she always feels cared for when she's there. I didn't know that this loved on feeling was what I was consciously aiming for but as soon as she said it I knew that was right.
~Hannah (from J's work)

GinaBrewer said...

Our home is so very small with my young family of four but we are praying he Lord would allow us to buy a house soon and also to guide us through the adoption process. We love having friends over for a meal and a game night. We always pray our home is a place of peace and of fellowship.

Amy said...

Once we were between apartments and a family from our church took us in even though they had nine kids! It still blows me away. :-)

Amy said...

I usually clean my house all up before any company comes over. I like everything to be in its place and can be a bit OCD about it. I have one friend who worries about her house not being clean enough when I think it is fine. She has seen my house looking super organized and neat and compared her house to mine. I have started a habit with this friend of not cleaning my house all up before she comes over and she has expressed great appreciation about this. I have even gone so far as taking pictures of my house when it looks terrible and emailing those pictures to her when she has been worried about her house. The giant dust bunny picture I sent her was one of her favorites. Some times hospitality is not about making your house look perfect but allowing others to see some of your mess so they don't feel like they have to live up to some super clean expectations when you come visit them.

Emily said...

In December, we were on a rather large road trip, which ultimately ended in TX, where our 2nd son was graduating from college. On the way, we stopped in a state where my husband had a couple of days of business to attend to. I was "lamenting" to another adoptive mom about spending those couple of days at the hotel with our 5 children. It turned out that this mom and her family lived less than half an hour from where we were. I had NO IDEA where she lived. She blessed us by having us over one the days. She prepared a delicious and child friendly meal, our kids played and played and we were able to sit and chat together all afternoon about our favorite topic, adoption! The time passes so quickly, much more so than if I had been trying to fill our day in and around our hotel. Her willingness to open her home to us, in the busy month of December, was SUCH a blessing!


Kim said...

When I was away from home at college, a family opened their home to me. It was so nice to get away from dorm life sometimes and have a place relax and a home cooked meal! I still keep in touch with them many years later.

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