An Open Letter to the Hesitant Host

What stops us from practicing hospitality is our plenty, not our lack. We have too much, and we love too much what we have.

Daily ordinary hospitality, practiced for Christ’s glory, sanctifies your boundaries and fortifies your faith. It also exposes the idolatry in our hearts that falsely declare our homes our castles and our time our own. Hospitality combats the crushing loneliness that too many brothers and sisters in Christ bear by offering basic care: a meal, a hug, a prayer.

 

Dear friend,

Are you busy? Are you important? Do you work on a tight schedule? Are your boundaries well-fortified?

Those are not, in and of themselves, bad things.

But they will become idols if you don’t add something: Christian hospitality—the scriptural command to regularly, transparently, and sacrificially come together in homes over a meal, gathering with neighbors and brothers and sisters from the church, and welcoming strangers.

Let me tell you a story. A few years ago, a man with a dark secret moved in across the street. He was visibly fragile. We became friends slowly, by fits and starts. Then, one day, his dog Tank disappeared. My children made posters, I put an announcement on Nextdoor, and we all walked miles, searching for a one-hundred-pound pit bull that ran loose in the neighborhood—to the terror and fury of neighbors. But Tank was gentle and kind and was needed by the man who loved him.

After Tank was found, our friendship was sealed. We started walking our dogs together. He was generous to us, helping us with tasks that we couldn’t do on our own. He cut down dead trees in our woods, being sensitive to preserve the ones with nesting red-shouldered hawks when my son told him about the babies. My children drew him pictures for his refrigerator. He joined us for Thanksgiving and Christmas and birthdays (Hank and I were born on the same day in the same year). He came shyly and awkwardly at first, but eventually whole-heartedly. For years, we were his one, daily human contact.

And then one day his secret was exposed. Hank was making crystal meth in his basement. Yellow crime scene tape enveloped our neighborhood. Neighbors wrung their hands in shame, and worried about plummeting housing value.

Soon, neighbors turned their suspicion to us. After all: we were his friends. How could we not know something of this epic magnitude? Jesus dined with sinners, and there is an edge to that statement when it arrives on the tip of a pointed finger.

Hank’s arrest and incarceration, the horror of crystal meth, its making and its meaning in a world that traffics sex and murder in meth addiction, created a need to gather daily with our neighbors with food and prayer. That need did not start with well-planned meals and carefully orchestrated invitations. It started with accusation. Pacing in my kitchen while polishing off the last of my coffee, another neighbor, Bill, nailed it. We were guilty by association. We were naive dupes. He put it boldly: “How could you be friends with him? You know the problem with you Christians? You are so open minded that your brains are falling out of your ears.”

We heard Bill loud and clear. And we saw the need to use our home and our privileges differently. We started practicing daily hospitality, welcoming church family and neighbors. We posted open invitations on the Nextdoor app. The routine was simple: eating together, listening to concerns, learning as Kent led in family devotions (where Kent teaches through the Bible, one chapter each night), and praying together. All kinds of people came. People were welcome to leave after eating and griping, but most didn’t. Most stayed for Bible and prayer.

We realized that our home wasn’t a castle. It was an incubator and a hospital.

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