True Hospitality

Today, I am once again thankful to be a guest over at Lynn Mosher's blog, Heading Home. Please be sure to check out Lynn's blog and her series on "How To Behave Like A Christian." My post is based upon Romans 12:13b "...given to hospitality."

“…given to hospitality.” Romans 12:13b NKJV 

Three large tables were set as I walked into the women’s meeting:

* The first table was Martha Stewart perfect with fine china, starched linens, gleaming glassware, sparkling silverware.

* The second was comfy casual with paper plates and plastic utensils.

* The third table merely had a large paper grocery sack with a bag of chips in it.

As the women filed into the room, they filled up the paper sack table first. The paper plate table ended up half-filled. Not one woman sat at the Martha Stewart table.

Such was the speaker’s intention. Her topic that day was hospitality. And it was wildly apparent that comfort trumped perfection.

For a long time, I was disobedient to God’s call to hospitality. I refused to welcome friends to my home unless it was straightened up, perfectly decorated, a showplace. But I’ve since learned that people feel much more comfortable when a home appears lived-in.

As much as I love to learn new recipes and crafts, I believe Martha Stewart has done a grave disservice to women everywhere.

Hospitality isn’t about the home. It’s about the people in it.

Perhaps the Scripture passage most often used to discuss hospitality is the familiar story of Mary and Martha. (Luke 10:38-42)

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Mary and Martha, and their brother Lazarus, often hosted Jesus and His followers when they were in Bethany. I’m sure the arrival of these frequent guests, though welcome, required much work for their hosts.

Mary is usually pictured sitting at Jesus’ feet, but Martha said that Mary “left me to serve alone.” That tells me that Mary was serving before she sat down to listen to His words. Both sisters were serving when Martha and Mary each made a choice. Mary chose the “good part.” She stopped serving to pay attention to her Guest; Martha continued “distracted…, worried and troubled.”

I don’t believe the main issue here is busyness vs. resting as is often suggested. I believe it is hospitality.

While we shouldn’t be distracted, worried or troubled about it, we do need to be busy serving. Jesus came as a servant and declared that He was the example to follow (John 13:13-15). His mission statement was that He came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45).

Later, at another dinner in Jesus’ honor, the day before His triumphal entry to Jerusalem, we see Martha busy serving again, yet this time without complaint (John 12:2). This time her sister anointed Jesus for His burial. This time Martha understood hospitality. Her focus was on her Guest.

I am not “given to hospitality” if I am fluttering around the kitchen, if I am distracted by my preparations, if I am more concerned with how my home looks or my food tastes than with how my comfortable my guests feel. I am “given to hospitality” if I pay attention to my guests and what they have to say.

Hospitality is about esteeming your guest, not putting on a presentation. The only presentation we are asked to give is to present our “bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God.” (Rom. 12:1)

And hospitality isn’t limited to guests in our homes. It’s about our lives. We practice hospitality whenever we take a genuine interest in the people around us - friends, family, acquaintances, strangers; people in church, at our jobs, the supermarket, the mall, or the park; people on the phone, online, or in person.

The NIV and NLT translations of Romans 12:13b state, “Practice hospitality.” And we all know, “practice makes perfect.”


Jeanette Levellie said...

Oh, Susan, I love this post! You are so right--it's not about our environment as much as what's in our hearts, to serve others or impress them.

This post helps set me free. Thank you so much!


Sarah Forgrave said...

Wow, wonderful post, Susan! I tend to be a Martha far too perfectionist self at work. But God is teaching me to stop and listen more.

So glad to "meet" you!

quietspirit said...

We have a small home. I am not a neatnik. Husband prefers people not see it in it's natural way. I need to strike a happy medium between what it is and what he thinks it should be.

Karen Lange said...

I like to remember that we are witnesses wherever we go. Never thought about it in terms of hospitality. Thanks for sharing, good things to ponder.
Karen :)

Marja said...

Good post Susan, true hospitality is extending the peace in your home and heart to someone else and give away freely!

Jean said...

Beautiful post, beautifully written and so true.

Thanks for the reminder!


Cheri Bunch said...

This really inspired and lifted my heart, Susan. Thank you for sharing. I have learned a very important lesson from my stop here.

Chris said...

Loved this! Have a great day.

Runner Mom said...

"Hospitality isn’t about the home. It’s about the people in it."

Now that, my friend,is what I need to remember! I'm getting better about not worrying so much if the dust bunnies greet guests at the door! They--the guests!!- will be loved on while they are here.

Thanks so much for this!

Rhonda Schrock said...

You. Have. No. Idea. How much I was supposed to hear that - today. I've been kicking and screaming this very week on this exact topic. With an old, unremodeled farm house; a full-time job; and a distinct calling to practice hospitality, I don't want to. To be completely honest, my pride has been keeping me from opening my doors. Hard as it is to name it, and as hard as that one goes down, that's what it is.

There. Now that I've put my very spleen on display, I am, by the grace of God, currently planning a pizza party/campfire for Saturday night. Am trying to unclench my hands and ungrit (is that a word?) my teeth and do it joyfully.

Maria I. Morgan said...

Great post, Susan! And one that definitely hits home - no pun intended. "Hospitality isn’t about the home. It’s about the people in it." Lots to be learned from that one statement. Thanks for the reminder that hospitality is about "esteeming your guest, not putting on a presentation." Wow, do I have a long way to go in this matter of hospitality! God bless!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Susan -

A tale of two Martha's! Thanks for bringing out that true hospitality is about the guest not the setting.

Susan :)