FIRST-PERSON: Burnt aprons, hospitality & the Gospel
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- My Anthropologie apron and I have been through a lot together. Its charred yellow polka dot fabric, singed teal ruffle and frayed fuchsia waist ties tell stories of my many battles with macaroons, meringue pie and Crock-Pot mac 'n cheese.
While I should probably retire the ratty looking thing, I cannot bring myself to throw it away. Why? Because it has been while wearing that apron that God has taught me the art of biblical hospitality.
I believe that most Christian women desire to be known as ladies with hospitable hearts and homes. Many women feel limited, however, in their ability to practice hospitality in their everyday lives. My home is just too small; there's no extra space. My budget doesn't allow me to extend hospitality even though I desire to. My attempt at cooking is usually followed by a visit from the local fire department.
Believe me, I can relate. However, all of these challenges stem from a misguided understanding of true hospitality. Hospitality does not depend on your home mirroring the pages of House Beautiful or mastering Martha Stewart's latest recipe.
The Bible is clear that Christians ought to extend hospitality. Hebrews 13:2 says, "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." The Greek word used for hospitality in this passage as well as throughout the New Testament (philoxenia) means "love of strangers" and is a compound word linking "love" (phileo) to "strangers or guests" (xenos).
Hospitality is essentially loving strangers and meeting the needs of others. Romans 12:13 gives further instruction on hospitality, saying, "Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality." As Christian women we are called to intentionally pursue opportunities to practice hospitality with joyful hearts (1 Peter 4:8-9). The Greek word translated "practicing" (dioko) suggests the idea of "pursuing" or "intentionally striving for" hospitality.
So what is to be our motivation for hospitality? As women who actively pursue all that God has created us to be, our motivation is the very Gospel message itself. We have received, sisters in Christ, the ultimate act of hospitality (Romans 5:8), and biblical hospitality is the natural overflow from a grateful heart for His sanctifying work in our lives and our sweet love for Him (Matthew 22:37-39).
So what makes a godly woman or home hospitable?
The condition of our spiritual heart controls how we extend hospitality (Romans 2:11, Matthew 5:43-48, Luke 14:12-14). But who are we to entertain with an open heart? Fellow believers (Romans 12:13), widows and orphans (1 Timothy 5:1-16), Christian workers (Matthew 10:9-11), the poor and needy (Luke 14:12-14), unbelievers (Luke 5:29) and foreigners (Genesis 18:1-22). We open our hearts to a variety of guests so that we may love them in His name. These needs include extending love and encouragement (Romans 12:10-13), preparing food (Genesis 24:15-21), providing a safe place to rest (Genesis 18:1-22), sharing possessions (James 2:15-16), giving spiritual instruction (Titus 2:3-5) and sharing the Gospel (3 John 7-8).
So where does this picture of biblical hospitality take place?
By divine design, women are to be the caretakers of the home (Titus 2:5; 1 Timothy 5:14; Proverbs 31). It is no surprise, then, that the home is to be the primary place where we practice hospitality. While hospitality is more an extension of our grateful hearts, our homes should be a prepared place for our family, friends and guests (John 14:2). We should strive to create havens that are peaceful and serene so that we may minister to the hearts of others without hindrance.
I fondly remember coming home for a weekend during a hard semester at college. My mother knew the semester had been rough and went out of her way to make our family home a place of quiet rest. She put fresh flowers in my room, made my favorite meals, furnished the bathroom with a sampling of spa lotions and creams and left a welcome basket on my bed with an assortment of my favorite girly things -- including a note that brought tears and a smile to my face all at once -- you know, the kind that only mothers can write! I will never forget the care and concern she took to minister to my spirit that weekend. Dear sisters, when we open our home to family, friends and guests, we have a sacred opportunity to bless others and live a Kingdom-focused life.
Developing the art of hospitality requires sacrifice, time and resources. However, the rewards are many: establishing new relationships (Proverbs 11:25), training children in the ways of the Lord (Proverbs 22:6), exercising spiritual gifts (1 Peter 4:10) and growing in grace and truth (Philippians 2:1-4). If you are an older woman -- and we all are to someone -- consider reaching out to a younger woman and teaching her from your satchel of wisdom. If you are a younger woman, seek out an older woman to learn the skills that would help you to practice hospitality with more ease.
You might end up with a few burnt aprons like me, but believe me, the journey and reward of blessings others in Jesus' name is worth the time and creative effort.