On Hospitality

"All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ." - from the Rule of St. Benedict,

Hospitality is a gift. I don't know if I have it. I never considered I did- mostly because I'm not an extrovert, so I don't like parties and am not very entertaining in social settings. Since I've had my own home, though, I've discovered I love having people over, and I've discovered a profound distinction between hospitality and entertaining.

I don't entertain. I am not nor do I aspire to be Martha Stewart. Martha Stewart entertains. What is entertaining? It is preparing your home for guests- cleaning up the entire house, getting out the china, having a centerpiece, cooking a fancy recipe, worrying about the presentation of the food, how the table is set, and what you are to wear. These are not things I am good at, nor do I value. If it were the case that I had to do all of the above to have people over, I wouldn't, plain and simple.

Hospitality, on the other hand, is a different animal. Sure, it also involves having people into your home, but it ends there. Extending hospitality puts the focus on the guests rather than the facade of the hosts. Entertaining props up a beautiful face on a home that is not reality. Hospitality invites friends and strangers into a home and a life- to be hospitable is to be vulnerable and real. It allows acquaintances to be given dignity by being served and provided for in the living space of another. Sure, I'll be honest- I straighten up the house enough so that friends have a place to sit and a place to set their drinks in the living room (most of the time) and I have an idea of what I'll be making for dinner, so I can have enough in the house, but that's about it. And we have people over pretty often! A week ago Tuesday, friends were over for dinner. Other friends are coming on Saturday. We've had my family over a couple times recently, and I think our record for number-of-people-in-our-apartment-dining-room was 10 adults, 3 infants when our small group was over for dinner.

Sure, I could be ashamed that we have (nice!) hand-me-down and thrift store furniture or that we are in a third-floor, one-bedroom apartment or that we don't have enough matching glasses or dishes to put out for large groups of guests. These could all be excuses for NOT having people over, and they would be acceptable. If my dishes in the sink aren't clean or the laundry in the bedroom isn't put away, I could forgo spending quality time with friends and say we're busy- legitimately! Especially us suburban folk use excuses all the time to avoid letting anyone into our personal castle. Our stuff doesn't measure up to the neighbor's stuff, so why would anyone want to come over to our place? When the point isn't the stuff, but instead the people, is when hospitality is joyful and freeing.

So, for those of you who come over, don't expect to be entertained. I will provide a warm meal and big heart and a safe place to visit and rest. You are welcome anytime.

Other blog thoughts on hospitality vs. entertaining:
Subversive Hospitality - the post that started me thinking about this.
Hospitality is subversive because it messes with our clean demarcation between public and private, faith acted and faith personal. Our attempts to be independent, isolated, private people are thwarted. If you've ever read C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce, you know what I'm getting at. Lewis' hell is essentially a suburban sprawl, where people continue to spread out, isolate themselves from one another.

Hospitality VS Entertaining...
hospitality: three conditions
Entertaining: The Simple Truth
Hospitality or Entertaining?

A thought to end with from the last blog on the list:
HOSPITALITY is people-centered;
ENTERTAINING is impression-centered.


Matt said...

Thank you for the links. I searched on "christian hospitality" on Amazon and there are quite a few books on the subject. If I get any, I'll let you know which and how they were.

Even more than the church service, the home is a crucial place for understanding the social implications of the church body engaging the culture. How do we do it in a way that both loves and beckons someone toward the gospel? As I get ready to move into a new home and new neighborhood, this question has been on my mind more and more.

Joanna said...

Another link with a good list & contrast between the two.

ashley@twentysixcats said...

Joanna - this discussion is really long, but I think you'd find it very interesting.

ashley@twentysixcats said...

Sorry my last comment had nothing to do with hospitality. :-)

Joanna said...

Ashley- I saw that earlier. I actually almost emailed it to YOU


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