“Hey, Sue? I’m here! Where is everybody? I’m coming in. Shall I put the kettle on?”
Grace never knocked and I could hear her holler from any corner of my house. She figured the sign on the porch, “Time for Tea” meant anytime, any day. And she knew where to find the cream in the refrigerator.
Grace came right on in and I was glad. And she loved it when I’d do the same.
God came right on in, too, when He sent us His Son. He hailed us loud and clear from a cross raised high: “Hey there, mankind, I’m here! I made you because I wanted you. I redeemed you because I loved you.”
I only had to reply, “Here I am.” And then He placed right in front me—at a table big enough for everyone—all I ever needed and will need.
God invited us first: “Come, there’s room. Right here by Me.” His welcoming heart is the “big why” behind our hospitality.
THE NEXT BEST THING
Once we RSVP to God’s wide-open invitation, the next best thing is to pass along His invitation to others. To host because He hosted first is a privilege, not a drudge. When we welcome, we get to show off God’s essence: His welcoming heart. And though it can be plain hard at times, recalling that privilege gives me stamina, courage, and joy.
The Bible says, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9). We may think to ourselves then, Since inviting strangers or friends makes me grumble, maybe it’s not for me! I may hesitate to host for various reasons—I’m tired, my husband is shy, my kids are grumpy, my couch needs replacing, and I’m broke. I don’t even know where to begin.
All good reasons? Perhaps. But all of our reasoning pales in light of knowing this: When I open wide my home and heart, I get to display the wideness of God’s mercy.
I know God wants me to be hospitable, but I can think of too many reasons not to be. Knowing my why encourages me to go ahead and invite that stranger or host the new family in the neighborhood.
Your neighbor is far more inclined to visit your home for coffee and banana bread than to respond to an invitation to attend church or Bible study. My friend Michelle attended every coffee, dessert, and potluck I invited her to in my home. Finally, I invited her to church. She responded, “What time?” and it became our regular practice to pick her up and drop her off. All because of an invitation.
Inviting someone to my table can be the first step to inviting them to God’s table. That’s the big why. It’s so big that it keeps me changing the sheets one more time without as much grumbling—because I still do grumble—and adding more hamburger to the sauce without fretting (because I can still fret).
HOW TO GET STARTED
The best way to overcome my hospitality hesitations is to begin small and keep it simple. If I’m feeling insecure, I can’t even imagine preparing a formal dinner party for 12. Matching linen napkins aren’t in my wheelhouse—or my drawers. I’ve never been good with Beef Wellington on the menu or desserts that include lighting something on fire.
I’ve learned to begin small by inviting one person or two, rather than the entire youth group or soccer team. When our girls were little, I asked their teachers for tea and cookies after school. My daughter did all the talking, and she learned to host at the same time.
One warm Fall day, I invited two couples for dinner. Since the casserole was prepped and bread in the bread machine, I knew I could still make a cake. But I was worn-out and hot. While on errands, I spied some Halloween Oreos! Instead of homemade, I served ‘store bought’ alongside vanilla ice cream, and we practically licked the bowls. My sister, Lori, once said, “Almost anyone can serve a bowl of ice cream.” I followed her advice that evening, and we made some new friends in the process.
WHY WE KEEP INVITING
Each year, our church members take the opportunity to ‘adopt’ a college student. What better way to show God’s love to a young adult away from home than by including them in family dinners.
Inviting college kids is the simplest form of hospitality. They eat anything you make with gusto and appreciation and will offer to do the dishes, babysit your kids, and wash your dog—maybe all in the same day.
One afternoon, my friend Ceslie received a call from her adopted college gal. The young freshman had to leave school because that very week her mother had been killed in a car accident. Ceslie immediately invited her for dinner, including her dad and sister who had come to town to help her move home. Hospitality includes comfort food in the truest sense, as well as Gospel community when it is needed most.
We keep inviting because we don’t know what hard things our friends and neighbors may face today or tomorrow. We keep comfort food at hand and our doors open because, although we cannot change the hard things, we can draw alongside with the comfort of God . Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
JESUS IS MY CO-HOST
There’s a beauty in the mutuality of hospitality. God welcomed you and I at creation, and Christ beckons with relentless hospitality with His invitation: “Come to me” (Matthew 11:28). Hospitality began with God. But He allows us to host Him, as well. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).
The King of Kings at my door, eating with me! If He’s at my table, shouldn’t I feel free to invite the next person who comes along? Jesus is my co-host. I am invited to invite, but I’m not alone. He gives me courage, and my guests receive a bonus Host.
Liz Heaney said: “Hospitality is a metaphor for how God woos us. So that when we welcome others, we welcome them to God.” To recall the welcoming heart of God takes the guessing out of the why in doing hospitality, and makes the labor—because there is labor—one of love and grace.
God came right on in so that I can tell my world, “Come on over! You’re welcome here.” He invited you and me, and now we all get the opportunity to pass on the invitation.
COLLEGE-KIDS-APPROVED CROCKPOT PORK RIBS
1. Place ribs in slow-cooker
2. Sprinkle liberally with garlic salt
3. Set on LOW, 6-8 hours
4. Remove and place on parchment-covered cookie sheet
5. Slather liberally with BBQ sauce
6. Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees
7. Serve with baked potatoes and extra napkins
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