"Hospitality is seeing in the other the image of God." - C. Christopher Smith
I am not going to lie-I am way extra when it comes to setting the table, especially for guests. I am all about the tablescape-creating a beautiful setting to gather around and break bread. But, the actual bread, not so much. I can cook, and it turns out reasonably decent, but let's just say given a choice between cooking and cleaning the toilet- the toilet wins every time. In a world of Pinterest and Instagram, it is easy to focus on the food, table, or house when opening our homes to others — becoming overly concerned about how it all looks rather than the comfort of the guest. Author Christopher Smith in the book, Slow Church, caused me to reevaluate the traditional interpretation of hospitality.
Hospitality should occur in every interaction-from brief encounters at the Target check out to long sweet conversations with friends. It is about seeing past outward appearances and looking at their true identity as a beloved child of God. In the book, Cross Cultural Servanthood, the author shares a story of joining a friend's ministry providing care for the homeless when he noticed what he thought was a prostitute. He asked his friend, "Is she a prostitute?" The friend gently reminded him, "No, that is a person in prostitution." We tend to label people by their decisions, sin, or appearance. Can you ever imagine Jesus doing that? He never ignored sin, but he always first saw a precious child of God. God never allows our mistakes or decisions to define who we are. And neither should we- for others or ourselves.
But, we humans like categories and labels. I suppose it helps us know where we fit, and then we feel better about ourselves. (Side Note- I am not proud of this, but I know that I have had thoughts like, “I screw up, but at least I am not a hot mess like...) However, many of our tidy labels lead to pride and dehumanization.
Some statistics report that 53 % of Americans have no one to talk to.* They have no one who gives them the space to feel seen, heard or comfortable. No one to offer them hospitality, no one to show them how precious, and beloved they are by God. Today I am challenged to provide acceptance in my interactions. So, what does it look like for you to offer hospitality today? Who can you give the space and comfort needed to feel known and loved?
*Finke, Greg. Joining Jesus on His Mission: How to Be an Everyday Missionary