Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:8-11
When I was a child, my mother had this incredibly annoying habit of knowing someone everywhere we went. Every department store, every restaurant, anywhere we went. And it wasn’t just in our little township—she ran into acquaintances everywhere within a 100-mile radius of home. That woman was always talking when it was time to check out, give our order, or leave. I found it irritating and inconvenient because I wanted to be somewhere else doing something else and instead I had no choice but grow impatient waiting for her to say “goodbye” to them and “let’s go” to us.
What I didn’t see then that I recognize now is that my mother was practicing the gift of hospitality that God gave her. I used to think, maybe like you, that hospitality meant inviting someone into my home and giving them good dinner and dessert while we discuss trivial things or gossip about the neighborhood kids. But that’s not what it really means. Hospitality is about receiving friends and strangers into your life and heart and treating them in a warm and generous way wherever you are. What does true hospitality look like? Let me give you a couple of examples.
Mom and I both understand how important it is to intentionally connect with our loved ones regularly so for the last twelve years she and I have met for lunch at the same restaurant every Tuesday. She gets to the restaurant early to get a table since I am on my lunch break from work and my time is limited. While she’s waited for me over the years, she’s engaged in friendly conversation with a waitress who, now, always waits on us. Mom invited this woman into her life and her heart by genuinely caring for and about her. As time went on, we both became friendly with our waitress and now the three of us are friends, even meeting for lunch on occasion somewhere else so that the three of us can catch up uninterrupted or seeing plays together.
My family gets together every Friday evening for dinner at a restaurant that is close to my parents’ home. My parents will also stop there for lunch during the week as well. Again, over the years, she has become friendly with the whole wait staff but most especially with one particular woman who again is now their waitress every time they eat there. By extension, I have had the privilege of getting to know this woman. Last week, my mother asked our Friday night friend to join us for lunch on Tuesdays. I think it is going to be great to get to know her away from her workplace. Maybe our Tuesday friend and our Friday night friend will become friends too.
Hospitality is about opening your heart and your life to others, friends and strangers, getting to know them, and letting them get to know you. It’s about making someone else more important than you and your schedule. It’s about genuinely caring for and about someone else. Hospitality isn’t easy as it is a conscious effort to make yourself less important to you than others, even and especially strangers. But it is possible and even enjoyable when it is done in the love and grace of our Lord Jesus. Welcoming someone in his name and power is a profound experience for the receiver and giver. I never realized until now that all those years ago, when mom was forever making me wait because she was talking with someone else, that she was in fact teaching me something beautiful and holy—God’s precious gift of hospitality.