We all know what this is. Or, between hospitality management majors and Martha Stewart, we are supposed to. Neither are right. On one hand the hospitality industry - comprised of hotels, restaurants, and more - teaches that hospitality is a business transaction that is only available to you if you have money. If you want a bed, then you got to pay. If you want a meal, then it is going to cost you. Then on the other hand: Martha Stewart, Instagram, and kinfolk all give us the notion that hospitality is all about presentation.
If we buy into either of these lies, we never truly practice hospitality and completely miss the life-giving, life-changing impact that it has on our lives. If we believe that hospitality is more of a business transaction, then we are always looking for something in return when we practice hospitality. If we believe hospitality is about entertaining, then we are always putting on a show. We never let people into the mess of our lives.
So what is hospitality?
Hospitality is making room for other people amid the craziness of our everyday lives. Hospitality is the practice of creating space for people at work, at home, around the dinner table, at the sporting event, going grocery shopping, and sharing a drink with others. Hospitality is about making room for others in our schedules, in our places, and in our hearts.
Hospitality is throughout all of the Bible, from the Old to the New Testament. We see Abraham greeting angels unaware. God commands Israel to make room for refugees and nomads as they travel through their land. We see Jesus coming “eating and drinking.” God even requires leaders in the church (i.e. elders) to be hospitable. While hospitality is throughout all the Bible, it actually is a dominant theme.
Romans 15:7, “Therefore welcome one another, as Jesus has welcomed you.”
The Gospel is a story of hospitality
The Apostle Paul situates the Christian practice of hospitality in the gospel. The good news of Jesus is that he made room for us. He told his disciples: “In my father’s house are many rooms… I am going there in order to prepare rooms for you.” Perhaps this reality is best seen in one of the most well known stories that Jesus told, ‘The parable of the prodigal son.’
As the story goes: there were two brothers, one older and one younger. The older brother was reliable, professional, and competent. He was the perfect older sibling who kept all the rules. The younger brother, on the other hand, was rebellious. He always fought against his dad. So one day he told his dad: ‘You’re dead to me. Just give me my inheritance and I’ll leave you alone.’ The dad did just that. The younger brother went away and partied, while the older brother stayed and helped out his dad regain the financial loss.
The younger brother partied and spent all the money his dad bequeathed him. So he decided to come home and ask to be a servant. When the dad saw him walking up the long driveway, the dad ran to him! The father embraced him and told his servants to throw the best BBQ smoke the town has ever seen — all in honor of his son's return.
Then we come to the older brother. He saw everything that was going on and refused to join the celebrations. It wasn’t because he resented his brother; he refused to join the party because he shared the same attitude his younger brother had. He was only a good son to get all the good stuff from his father, which is what the younger son did through his rebellion.
The Father saw that his older son was not at the party, so he came out to him and asked: “what’s wrong son? Will you come into the party?”
The Father, despite his sons’ resentment of him, loved them both. When his younger son embraced his folly and spiritual poverty, the Father threw the biggest party. But what kept the older brother from enjoying the party was his own refusal to join the party, out of a deep resentment for the lavish celebratory love of the Father.
So here's the questions before us:
Have you experienced the welcome of God?
Do you welcome others as God welcomed you?