Hospitality is a great virtue.
I imagine we could all list times we have been blessed by other people’s hospitality as they invited us to dinner, or to their house for the afternoon, or maybe even housing you overnight between flights in another city.
And the Bible commands us to be hospitable (1 Peter 4:9: “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”)
But it’s not as easy as it sounds.
First off, I don’t even have a house to invite people over too. I live with my parents. So how can I be hospitable if I don’t have a home to invite people to? Now, when I was housesitting, I had a house. But I still didn’t invite anyone because I feared my cooking was not up to standard, and because I didn’t think I could play the role of host like I’ve seen my Mum and Dad do.
Now, there are several answers to those problems, such as “Get over it!” and
“Learn how to cook!” and communicating with your folks so they can help you invite people to your house, because it is your house too. But as good as those answers are, ultimately these problems stem from the wrong understanding of hospitality. Hospitality is not “having visitors over”. That’s just a way of expressing it.
Hospitality is using your resources to intentionally create a space where other people can feel loved. It’s easy to see how inviting people for dinner can do that. But we can do that when we are out of the home as well.
For instance, listening is an incredibly hospitable act. When we listen to other people, then they feel loved. More specifically, they feel safe, because who they are or what they are saying is being shown respect. Your “listening ear”, to borrow the metaphor, creates a space where it is ok for them to show you a little bit of themselves.
Conversely, if we are poor listeners, then we are inhospitable. If we do not pay them much attention, then they left feeling that their ideas or experiences aren’t valued, so it’s not safe for them to share them. But if they do not share, then they are isolated from other people, and without that connection, how can they feel loved?
Listening is hospitable.
In exactly the same way, kindness is hospitable. If the words we say or the acts we do show them that who they are or what they are saying or dong is valued, then we’re saying that it safe to be and do those things here. With that safety, they can dare to express a little bit of themselves. And with that freedom, we feel loved.
So I want to be a hospitable person. Yes, I probably should learn to cook (my mum is reading this after all!), but more than that, I want to be a walking dinner invitation, so that how I talk, listen and carry myself wherever I go says: “pull up a chair, make yourself at home. You’re safe here.” That’s very hard work. Some people are better at it than others. The key, then, for the rest of us, is to watch the good listeners and figure out how to use our unique skills to follow suit.