The Joy of Hospitality
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for by doing so you may entertain angels unaware.”
I will be the first to admit that I have no clue whether this verse should be taken literally. If we entertain people, are there invisible angels in our midst that will also have a good time? It makes me think of playing Pictionary and laughing at someone’s drawing, while some hovering angels chuckle too.
When I was younger, my dad made a point to help other people in our church feel welcome. He didn’t have an official church position, but he still took the initiative to connect with others. He would invite new people over, cook a nice fish or steak dinner, and then entertain them with a game of round robin Ping-Pong or shooting clay pigeons. My dad and mom always made sure that our guests were comfortable and felt welcome, and in turn, our family ended up forming many lifelong friendships.
As I moved out of the house and headed to college, I began to get a little homesick. I lived in a decent college apartment complete with movie posters and DVD racks, but sometimes I longed to be away from my responsibilities in a place where I could just relax and talk with new people. Luckily, a few young married couples invited us college kids over once a month, and let me tell you this; going from ramen noodles to homemade chicken casserole was like breaking out of jail. It was also great to sit at a dinner table and have genuine conversations with people from church. In short, the invitations were a blessing.
After college, I moved to a small apartment in Indianapolis. Even though I lacked space and culinary skills, I still invited a ton of people from church over to have fun. We would play hours of Ping-Pong on a cheap table that barely fit into the dining area. Although squeezing between the table and the wall was a challenge, we always had a blast.
I’ve noticed that lately, I haven’t been inviting people over as much, even though my current house has about five times more space than my old apartment. Maybe I’m getting older, or dwelling too much on the work it takes to host, or perhaps I’m worried that people who visit will be bored. However, as I look at what the Bible says (Romans 12:13), I realize that it’s important to practice hospitality.
When I practice hospitality regularly, I remember what brings people joy. Most people don’t care if you have high-end furniture, serve on a set of expensive china or live in a fancy neighborhood. People just want to be welcomed and to feel at home. They don’t need you to be all over the place, making sure all their needs are met. They just want to get to know you, the relaxed and comfortable you.
And so, if you want to invite people over, but don’t know if your place is quite up to snuff, or you’re worried that people might not like your cooking, here is something to remember: the best time and location to start practicing hospitality is right now, right where you are. So go ahead and send out the invitations. Of course, including some hors d’oeuvres won’t hurt.