My Dear Sister in Christ,
“Mi casa es su casa.” Most of us who do not even speak Spanish know what this means. My house is your house. Make yourself at home. Women are especially adept at and eager to show hospitality. Perhaps that is because we are naturally empathetic toward others, especially when they are facing some sort of need. In ancient times there were few inns and travelers were at the mercy of kind individuals along the way. Leviticus 19:34 specifically told Israel to treat a stranger as they would like to be treated because they were once strangers in Egypt. Surely, we can learn from the principle that all people deserve the consideration we would like to be shown. Luke 6:31 is not exclusively applied to fellow Christians.
Members of Christ’s body generally excel at showing kindness. Unfortunately, we tend to think of this in terms of food more than anything else. Having the preacher over for a meal during a Gospel meeting or delivering food to a family with sickness or loss is a “no brainer” for most of us. I would like to challenge you, my sister, to think beyond the ordinary applications on this one. If there is ever too much of a good thing it can happen in the realm of meals. Even if you need food for a time it can feel overwhelming to have more than can be eaten or stored in a refrigerator. Older individuals are especially sensitive to this situation. If they or their parents went through the Depression or hard times it will be against their consciences to just throw things away. (Remember the starving children in China speech?) At that point it becomes a burden to them to find someone who can eat the extra or feel guilty for disposing of it. It is not always possible to anticipate how much will be too much, but an effort should be made to be sensitive in this. For sure, making food is our love language in many congregations, but if this service is about the one served, not just the ones doing the serving, then moderation will prevail.
When you do have folks over to your house for a meal, what is it all about? Do you harbor a secret desire to be mistaken for Martha Stuart? A friend created a picture I have hanging in my kitchen that says, “It’s about the friends, not the food.” Point taken. The time spent together can be meaningful no matter what the food may be, but that goes both ways. It does not need to be peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to prove that you feel comfortable and unpretentious with others. I happen to be one of those who just enjoys playing with her food. I do not enjoy time with my brethren less because I put a little extra effort into the preparation, but since presentation and taste are not really the standards it will not ruin an event if it doesn’t go just the way I had hoped. The real measure of success is if the occasion brings us closer together as a family. That can be accomplished in many different ways, and allowances should be made for each to make their own judgments.
Hospitality is really about extending a part of your home to others and your home is defined as your family. When you offer to sit with children of a young couple so they can spend an evening alone, you are showing hospitality. When you take in a college student for Sunday lunch and allow them to use your washer and dryer to do laundry you are showing hospitality. When you sit up late into the night with a family who are in a hospital waiting room you are still showing hospitality. Sharing your time and attention are no less investments in your friendship than having them in your home in other formal ways. Sometimes what others need is not food, a bed, or money in any form. Sometimes they need a shoulder to cry on or an ear to bend or a sounding board for important decisions they are facing. This command is not filled when we are only available if someone asks. We need to be looking for chances to fill the needs of others and actively seeking to show hospitality.
Your loving friend,
“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”