How do you feel about hospitality with children in the house?
Sometimes we feel like we need to caveat our invitations for people to come round to the house. “You’re welcome to come round but…there’s mess, there’s noise, the food on offer is exactly the same as what was on offer last week!”
Some people love to play the host. Nothing brings them more joy than rustling up an exotic meal, decorating the table with freshly cut flowers and candles, and ushering their guests into the house for happy times in front of the roaring fire.
I (Cathy) love the idea of being that person, but I’m just not wired that way. That all seems like a lot of effort, and I feel exhausted at the thought of it. Add children into the mix, and the idea of that sort of hospitality is a joke.
With very young children in the house (a three year old and one year old), it’s easy to get discouraged about our meal-times. Often conversation is stilted, the floor is littered with the baby’s food and occasionally the three year old gets naked. It’s a far-cry from the idyllic picture of ministry-bliss that I had in mind when we first had children. Oftentimes the Christian call to be hospitable feels unattainable to me, at least the “be hospitable to one another without complaint” (1 Peter 4:9) command feels unattainable.
Because hospitality is something I find pretty stressful and because I know it’s a good thing to do – especially for those in church leadership (1 Timothy 3:2) – I can feel pretty guilty about my efforts and heart attitude towards it.
However, this week while reading a devotional by Gloria Furman called “Glimpses of Grace” I was comforted and compelled by the gospel in the area of hospitality. Furman writes:
The thing that makes our hospitality distinctly Christian is not a quantifiable domestic skill or quality of food, but the presence and power of Christ-like love. While the world points us to designer hospitality, we see in God’s word that Jesus is the true and better host. He calls us into God’s very presence through the sacrifice of his own body! The cross of Jesus is the greatest hospitality that the world has ever seen. Because Jesus gave his life to pay for our sin, all those whose faith is in him have been guaranteed a place in his Father’s house forever. Christ invites us to come in out of the cold, dark world and into his kingdom…Now that’s “biblical hospitality!””
I had never thought about the gospel in these terms before. That Christ is the best host ever – not because he was a Michelin Star Chef, but because he laid down his life so that we could commune with God the Father. Because that’s what hospitality is all about; people being brought into, and people belonging to the family of God. The goal is fellowship, is community, is family. That was Jesus’ aim in his hospitality.
And that can and should be our aim in hospitality too.
As we share meals together we express the gospel – that God creates a family out of people who were not family. That he welcomes into the warmth those who were lost and cold and alone. That we can enjoy the very presence of God – his Spirit given to us because of Christ’s sacrificial death on our behalf.
When I think about hospitality with that vision in mind – of welcoming and including people in our little Thomson family life – I can then see it as a foretaste and expression of what it means to belong to God’s family. Well that gives it an amazing purpose, it makes me want to do it.
And then, I remember the chicken-nugget-spraying baby, the rambunctious pre-schooler, the broken downstairs toilet and my limited cooking ability and I wonder is this really what God has in mind? Including others in this?
Furman’s words were a great comfort to me:
Every effort in hospitality must flow from a dependence on the grace of God. We look backwards to the cross to see and see how Jesus showed us what hospitality looks like in accepting others for God’s sake in order to bring them near to God. We look forwards to see future grace as Jesus supplies what we need in order to extend hospitality.”
In the end, it’s not about me, and that’s liberating!
As we express fellowship with others (those in the family of God, and those just peaking in to see what it’s like) we can aim for words and behaviour which glory in the cross of Christ.
It’s about his past grace – through his death on the cross to bring us near to God. And it’s about future grace – to give me all I need to host others in this crazy, messy, noisy stage of life.
And I’m trusting Jesus that he know’s exactly what he’s doing when he encourages crazy, messy, noisy adults and children to fellowship with him.
Isn’t the gospel liberating!