Biblical hospitality is a powerful way to connect with and get to know God. For God is hospitable.
In Jesus, God made room for people who were strangers and enabled them to become members of His household.
The Greek word we translate as "hospitality" is the combination of two words: ”philos, meaning "affection" and zenos, meaning "stranger." Meaning, biblical hospitality signifies affection toward strangers.
In her book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key, Rosaria Butterfield describes hospitality in this way: "using your Christian home in a way that seeks to make strangers neighbors, and neighbors family of God. It brings glory to God, serves others, and lives out the gospel in word and deed."
Making hospitality a regular rhythm or habit in our lives enables us to connect with our hospitable God, as we remember how He has shown us hospitality in Jesus. It also allows us to partner with our hospitable God by offering hospitality to others.
Last year, a major survey found that 60% of Austinites feel lonely, making us one of the loneliest cities in the U.S. Psalm 68:6 tells us, "God sets the lonely in families." His call for Christians to practice hospitality shows us that He intends to use your house, apartment, or dorm as living proof.
To quote Butterfield again, "Hospitality is not entertainment. Hospitality is about meeting the stranger and welcoming that stranger to become a neighbor, and then knowing that neighbor well enough that, by God's power, your neighbor becomes part of the family of God through belief in the gospel. It has absolutely nothing to do with entertainment. Entertainment is about impressing people and keeping them at arm's length. Hospitality is about opening up your heart and your home, just as you are, and being willing to invite Jesus into the conversation, not to stop the conversation but to deepen it."
Sometimes people don't practice hospitality because they don't have enough space, dishes, or food. But fear of not having enough is a fear that no one should heed. Hospitality shares what there is; that is all.
Often an obstacle to hospitality is not having too little to share but having too much we value. If you care more about your carpet or your couch than your neighbor and her kids you will not invite them over. Let us heed John 2:15-17 and repent of our love for the things in the world.
Front yard or common area gatherings are often easier to invite people to initially. They help set an informal and laidback tone that helps people move from being strangers to neighbors and friends.
Just like the formation of any new practice or habit, hospitality takes intentionality. Get your calendar out, think through who you want to invite, budget for it if you're going to provide food, and make your invites. It's not complicated, but it takes initiative.
Authenticity is attractive. Feel free to tell the people you've invited over: "This year I'm trying to become more hospitable. I'm afraid I might not be great at it yet, but I don't want my fear to keep me from getting time with you."