Our culture has lost the epic significance of a leisurely and lavish feast shared with friends. We often prefer fast food, convenience, and a television blaring in the background. Even if we can manage to join everyone around a table, we rush through our food, barely savoring it and hardly engaging in meaningful conversation–at least that’s the American norm.
Then…and now… Not much has changed really.
And taking our anemic fellowship a step further, we often gravitate toward fellowship with those who are just like us. If we get past our awkward hospitality stumbling and actually invite someone into our home, who do we invite? Those who are in the same social-economic, religious, intellectual, or racial status as we are.
“Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14). Yipes.
Now, obviously, Jesus isn’t saying don’t have close friends who think like you and are on the same path in life. He did. And we should too. But, what He’s encouraging us toward is a more outward-focused way of doing fellowship. Being communally-minded toward the outcasts and forgotten too–something I don’t do a good job at.
I am notorious for acting out of these exclusive faux pas. I feel less judged or judgmental if I hang out only with those like me. If people have a super-nice house and make a lot more money than we do, I feel embarrassed to invite them into our humble home. If they send their kids to public school and the kids utter foul language or have a bad attitude around my kids, I hold up my hand, “Oh no, not them” (as if my children are perfect angels–insert eye roll here). And how many unbelievers have walked across the threshold of my door in the last 15 years? Sometimes, what we declare as protection could just be pride.
I Peter 4:9 says to “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” Yipes again.
I share all my shame to let you know, the struggle is real. In fact, I didn’t really see it as a prideful area of favoritism in my life until my mentor gently challenged me to take a more welcoming stance with people. My attitude toward hospitality really didn’t reflect the attitude of my Lord.
Last week I was reading Paul, Apostle of Christ by Angela Hunt and in it, Paul and Luke discuss the significance of what it was to share a meal with others. “Paul turned, seeming to study Luke’s face. ‘You’re Greek–surely your culture understands the significance of table fellowship. It is reserved for those who are your closest friends and companions. That’s why the rabbis could not accept Yeshua–He ate with drunkards and sinners.’
“‘He loved them,’ Luke said the words aloud, more for his benefit than Paul’s. For some reason the thought had never occurred to him: Christ ate with sinners to show His love for them” (Hunt, 59-60). He was comfortable with the uncomfortable.
“The word hospitality approximates the Greek word philoxenia, which means ‘love of the stranger.’ For Christians to maintain an authentic Christian witness to a world that mistrusts us (at the very least) we must be transparently hospitable. When our Christian homes are open, we make transparent to a watching world what Christ is doing with our bodies, our families, and our world.
“Kent and I practice daily hospitality as a way of life because we must. We remember what it is like to be lonely. We remember the odd contradiction: to be told on the Lord’s Day that you are part of the family of God but then to limp along throughout the rest of the long week like an orphan begging bread. We know that chronic loneliness can kill people and destroy their hope and faith.
“Too many of us are sidelined by fears. We fear that people will hurt us. We long for days gone by. We need to snap ourselves out of this self-pitying reverie. Radically ordinary hospitality can indeed be used by the Lord to grow his people in grace and sacrificial living […]” (The Gospel Comes with a House Key, Rosaria Butterfield).
This sacred echo of hospitality keeps reverberating off my reluctant and fearful spirit. I claim a desire to do the great things of God, but I cowardly shy away from the easy opportunities right in front of me.
So, I am cautiously attempting to grow: baby steps–crawling before you run, right? I am not ready to jump into daily hospitality, or even weekly…and I may never grow beyond that, but grow I must. Because if I keep ignoring the way of Christ, whose way am I really walking in?
Lastly, I read this quote by one of my favorite sisters and I exhaled. Maybe it is possible for me.
“But entertaining isn’t a sport or a competition. It’s an act of love, if you let it be. You can twist it and turn it into anything you want—a way to show off your house, a way to compete with your friends, a way to earn love and approval. Or you can decide that every time you open your door, it’s an act of love, not performance or competition or striving. You can decide that every time people gather around your table, your goal is nourishment, not neurotic proving. You can decide.”
― Shauna Niequist, Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes