When I was growing up, my home was a constant hub of activity. My parents hosted so many people and events throughout my childhood that it was an unusual occasion when the house held only our nuclear family. Especially in my younger years, I found this exasperating.
With such activities came the inevitable deep cleaning that left no crevice unscoured. And to have strangers using our dishes, utensils, and washroom as much as our family did? Irritating. It was with much complaining that I endured my parents’ affinity for hosting.
Yet this ongoing hospitality was one of the most formative experiences of my childhood. Youth group parties, weekly small groups, cooking lessons from international friends, and Bolivian medical students attending residency at a nearby hospital are just a few examples of the bustle that filled our home.
Ongoing hospitality was one of the most formative experiences of my childhood.
Even by worldly standards, growing up with such a spectacularly diverse array of people and activities would’ve been a positive experience. However, the spiritual effects were of a far greater magnitude.
My parents granted me the privilege of witnessing firsthand what hospitality is according to the Bible: welcoming others into a wholesome environment saturated with Christ-centered love and care, both for the Christian and nonbeliever. For as long as I can remember, the power of such hospitality was on display within the walls of my home (though hospitality isn’t confined solely to a house).
Importance of Hospitality
Why is hospitality even important? The most compelling reason is that the Bible commands it.
It’s an error to view hospitality merely as a gift bestowed upon a small, often affluent fraction of the body of Christ. The apostle Peter exhorts the church to continue in steadfast godliness through worldly pressures, and he considers hospitality so important that he prescribes it in the short list of virtues his readers should pursue: “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Pet. 4:9). This falls within the section of the list that applies to all believers; Peter speaks to the use of individual spiritual gifts directly afterward. All followers of Christ should pursue hospitality in some form or another. It isn’t confined to a set group of people.
Not only is hospitality commanded but it’s used by the Lord to increase his kingdom. Scripture weaves examples of this throughout its pages.
Consider Priscilla and Aquila. This New Testament couple took the hospitality instruction seriously. Though their deeds aren’t exhaustively chronicled, we’re told they hosted a church within their home (Rom. 16:3–5) and sheltered Paul from angry citizens during his outreach to Corinth (Acts 18:1–17). Paul personally commended Priscilla and Aquila for their faithful service to the church.
Jesus used shared meals as a way to give teachings that would be compiled in the Bible and studied for thousands of years up to the present day (Matt. 26:6–7; Luke 5:29–32; 10:38–42). Of course, the ultimate example of hospitality is the Father inviting us into his kingdom to share in the blessings of his Son and refresh us with his presence. If hospitality matters so much to the Lord, it should certainly matter to us.
My Parents’ Hospitality
Scripture never mentions requirements about bells and whistles for hospitality, as this isn’t the point. We shouldn’t let our desire to provide hospitality morph into a desire to impress others for our own glory. My parents provided a fantastic example. Though they showed care by providing clean, comfortable spaces with delicious food and drink, their motivations didn’t stem from pride. In an age of carefully curated fronts and illusions of perfection, this is a critical (if difficult) point to remember.
If hospitality matters so much to the Lord, it should certainly matter to us.
So how exactly did this model of biblical hospitality influence me (and my siblings)? I wish there was space to recount it all.
We watched my parents minister to a despondent believer at the kitchen table and learned the power of discipleship. We “adopted” the Bolivian medical students as unofficial siblings and realized how meaningful a warm “home away from home” can be. We complained our way through prepping for weekly small groups and marveled over the fellowship that blossoms from intentional gatherings of Christians. We cooked countless dinners for countless guests and witnessed the sweet vulnerability of sharing a meal. And of course, there was the ever-present laughter that permeated our home with each gathering.
My parents’ hospitality was contagious. Their faithful pursuit of this command has hugely influenced my spiritual journey. Since striking out on my own, I’ve attempted to practice their profound lessons about the simple act of welcoming others into the intimate spaces of one’s daily life. And despite the hours of extra cleaning required, I’m grateful for this.