Hospitality When It’s Not Your Gift

'Place setting' photo (c) 2008, How I See Life - license: Melissa McDonald

As soon as our guest said goodbye, I sat on the couch exhausted. For an hour I couldn’t move. I surveyed what I could of the kitchen and living room as my children chased one another around the house. I would have stayed there longer but our next house guest was scheduled to arrive in a couple of hours. I drank another cup of coffee, put on a Baby Einstein video for my daughters, took toys off the furniture, put sheets on the inflatable mattress, and set out fresh towels. I was finishing up the kitchen when she arrived.

I’m often surprised when I look at our calendar and see how often we have guests into our home because, well, I wouldn’t be quick to say that hospitality is my gift; it certainly doesn’t come natural to me. But I’m learning a few things about opening my home for the sake of the Gospel whether or not it comes easily.

1.  Hospitality is about the Gospel.

Hospitality is about the Gospel, not trying to make sure everyone has a fun, good ole time. It’s welcoming real people with real needs into our home and family. It’s living out the Gospel story: we welcome just as we were welcomed. And welcoming is costly.

2.  We need to eagerly desire the gift of hospitality.

When the Apostle Paul talks about spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12, he doesn’t say, “If you’re gifted administratively, stick with that.” Or, “If you’re gifted at teaching, none of the commands to show hospitality apply to you.” We should definitely use our gifts to build up the church, but we’re all called to do many things whether or not they are our gifts: evangelism, sacrificial financial giving, and showing hospitality are just a few examples.

Paul even says that we are to eagerly desire the greater gifts, the ones that don’t just nourish our own souls but also build up the church. So if our reaction to hospitality is, “Not my gift; don’t want it!” then it’s probably time for us to repent and ask God to help us long to love our Brothers and strangers up close.

3.  Hospitality will be costly.

I like having my own space; hospitality requires that I share it with others. It’s work. It messes up our schedule. Opportunities to show hospitality rarely pop up at convenient times. And that’s all kind of the point.

Our sacrifice is a dim reflection of what God has done for us. We offer hospitality because God has shown us hospitality. He has invited us in. He is preparing a great feast for us dirty, wicked people who once despised him. More than inconvenient, welcoming us in cost the Father his only Son.

God is changing us to be more like him. That’s why, even though it’s not natural to me and I’d prefer less invasive ministry, God has commanded me — and all believers – to offer hospitality.

When I hear of an opportunity to show hospitality, I often still begin by thinking that it’s not my thing and that it’s not a good time. And then I remember the Gospel and I pray seriously about if God wants me to sacrifice for the sake of his name by opening my home this time.

There is blessing and joy when our houses and schedules get all messed up for the Gospel.

Profile PicMelissa McDonald (@melissabmcd) and her husband Eric serve and disciple international students at the University of Iowa with their two daughters, Miriam and Annette. She loves cooking, taking the girls on explores, and writing. Melissa blogs at The Cross and the Kitchen Sink and has written the bible study guide: To Live Valiently: A Study on the Proverbs 31 Woman.

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5 Comments to “Hospitality When It’s Not Your Gift”

  1. […] Today I’m writing at WOG Magazine. Click here to read the rest! […]

  2. […] When Hospitality Isn’t Your Thing: Melissa McDonald talks about our motivation for extending hospitality… even when we don’t feel especially gifted in the area. […]

  3. Emily says:

    When I was in seminary we lived in a 1-bedroom apartment for a year, and a 2-bedroom apartment for 2 1/2 years once our son came along. I can’t tell you how many times we had people that came through to sleep on our love seat (we didn’t have a real couch for a year) and then our air mattress once we finally got one. It was a rare opportunity in my life to serve so many people going through transitions. As difficult as it was having someone in the next room (with paper-thin walls!) and almost no privacy, I truly learned that hospitality, though inconvenient, is a gift for both the giver and the recipient. I look back now and feel so blessed to have helped countless friends, both believers and nonbelievers. I didn’t have especially fluffy pillows, crisp white towels, pancakes ready in the morning, or any if that. But I had what I had and people were happy to accept it. At the time it was hard, but I’m so glad I had those opportunities. This blog post has encouraged me to continue thinking seriously about foster care again—which will be a different type of house guest:) Thank you for writing it as God has used it to confirm some things in my heart.

  4. Christina Fox says:

    I have struggled with this! I tend to focus on the external things that don’t matter, a clean house, perfect meal, etc. But it’s truly a matter of the heart, a reflection of the gospel at work in me. Thanks for this!

  5. Melissa says:

    Emily, You know, as I was writing and praying about this topic I actually spent a lot of time thinking of how foster care is such a neat expression of hospitality. Thanks for sharing your hospitality journey!