This was the first piece of furniture in my apartment when I moved in three years ago.
Show hospitality to one another without complaining, (1 Peter 4:9, NET).
This year for the Expo, God has had me stop most of my travel activity and focus on hospitality. Opening your home to friends is a good first step toward opening your home to strangers. You have to make yourself willing to let people look in all your cabinets, and even into that messy catch-all drawer that every house has. Maybe this is the house equivalent to knowing that you ate onions at lunch and your breath is not nice.
I knew that I was called to offer hospitality as part of my ministry of encouraging missionaries. I also knew that I didn’t have any spiritual gift for hospitality—in fact, the only thing I scored lower on was mercy, which was zero. On hospitality I scored one.
My close friends and family know that if they come into my house wanting a drink of water, they will either have to ask or just go get it, themselves. It’s not that I would ever deny anyone a drink of water. I just honestly forget to offer it. My close friends and family also know that housekeeping is not my strong suit at all. Not only am I no Martha Stewart, but just by pronouncing her name in my house, I risk a defamation of character lawsuit. Of all the people you know, my kitchen trash is the most likely to be pungently overflowing, my floor sticky from spills or littered with actual flotsam and jetsam, and my bed is most likely to be unmade. Believe me, I am not boasting! In fact, I just paused after writing that last sentence, and went to make my bed.
But hospitality is more than just being a perfect housekeeper. Hospitality is also more than opening your home to others. Hospitality is doing whatever you can to help people feel comfortable and relaxed in your home—comfortable enough to help themselves to a drink of water or whatever it is that they want. That I do, but it flows more from the encouragement gift than any concerted effort on my part to be a good hostess.
After more than thirty years of being expected to have a delicious meal on the table—only to have my efforts disappear without comment within half an hour—I have lost all desire to cook. Surprisingly, this has become something that people enjoy about staying with me: they have free reign of my kitchen, which is well-equipped and almost always well-stocked. Often my guests will actually cook for me. The most surprising thing of all is that I really and truly don’t mind doing the dishes. Okay, I have a dishwasher, but the dishes don’t go into the dishwasher without a good rinse beforehand. Plus, there are some items that are either too big or too delicate to be washed in the dishwasher. Even as a child, I remember volunteering to do the dishes.
When you open your house for hospitality, you are going to lose some privacy. Your guests are going to look at your stuff—all your stuff. And sometimes that stuff is going to be picked up and put back in the wrong place. Sometimes your stuff will be broken or lost. This is part of the cost of hospitality. After the lid to my yogurt maker was lost (probably accidentally thrown out), I had a talk with myself. Was this part important? Yes, but not irreplaceable. I have learned to make-do without the lid, using an ill-fitting plastic lid instead.
Sometimes your guests will disturb the neighbors. I had a family with four children and their nanny staying with me once. They arrived in the night with an enormous pile of luggage like an invading army. The children were chattering loudly in excited English. The neighbors complained of course, even though it was still early evening. Of course, they didn’t mean to disturb the neighbors. Now I instruct people to enter and exit the apartment as quietly as possible.
How do I handle these pitfalls of hosting? I remind myself that this apartment belongs to God. He has been kind to allow me to live here, but the apartment and all the things in it really belong to Him, and not to me.
However, the benefits of hospitality outweigh its pitfalls. One benefit I noticed very soon after opening my home is that having praying people in your house creates a portal to the Throne Room of God. (If you follow that link you can see one of my favorite sermons by Perry Stone.) And when you have a portal to Heaven in your home, not only do prayers become easier, but also the Shalom, the unimaginable peace of God enters and stays.
Another benefit is that, while some things inexplicably go missing, other things just as suddenly appear. There is a ton of stuff in the apartment that I have no idea where it could have come from. Art materials, for example. I am not visually artistic, and I know that I did not buy them, so where did all these paints and colored markers and drawing paper come from? I haven’t got a clue!
Calling and gifting are two different things. Encouragement was encoded into my very DNA by God, and flows from me, often without any effort whatsoever on my part—sometimes I don’t even know that I’m encouraging until the recipient points it out.
But hospitality, being a calling, is something I do with great effort, and I do it out of obedience. Obedience flows out of love—love for God and love for God’s people. Operation Capitals of Europe (OCE) has remained a priority, but God has had me pass up a lot of events that I would normally have liked to have gone to: Awakening and European Trumpet Call, especially. But I did pass them up, knowing that it was what God had called me to do. And each time, there were important hosting opportunities.
We are all called to hospitality (1 Peter 4:9), just as we are all called to share our faith with others. If you’re interested in opening your home to believers, and in visiting and staying in the homes of believers, you can start by signing up with A Candle in the Window Christian Hospitality Network. Start building that portal in your house, too. You won’t be disappointed. God is good!