When I first started feeling the pull to stay at home some of my very favorite daydreams were about all the fabulous entertaining I’d have time to do. I couldn’t wait to sit up late chatting with our friends over a spectacular hand-made dessert or grill succulent steaks while all the families in the neighborhood hung around our yard. I just knew I’d be a perfect hostess and everyone would think my parties (house, children, husband, food, etc) were the absolute best.
If I have to tell you that it didn’t work out that way, then you probably haven’t been at home long. I quickly learned that hospitality is a lot of work and its purpose is not to make the hostess look good. Actually, it seems I am most called on to be hospitable when I am least prepared for it – you know those days when you haven’t had time to sweep up the crumbs from breakfast or lunch, or when the baby was up all night teething and now none of you are out of your jammies. And, while I love having company, hospitality isn’t always the fun stuff – the barbecues and parties. Sometimes it’s being a shoulder to cry on even when you don’t have time. Sometimes it’s taking in that niece or nephew whose parents have just given up. Sometimes its having an elderly relative come to live with you or inviting the "latch-key kids" next door over to play after school.
So why do we do it at all? Why is hospitality such a big deal? Well, because it can be really great. I love to open my home to others and have them share in the love of our family. But more than anything we do it because we’re commanded to. 1 Peter 4:9 says "Be hospitable to one another, without grudging." There is no better place (in my humble opinion, of course) to share the Gospel or to nurture new believers than in the home. We do it by living out our religion in front of our guests. By sharing His Word with them. By meeting their practical needs so that they can hear.
So how do we go from theory to practice? Well, …practice. Start small by having friends over just one or two at a time then build your way up to inviting those you don’t know as well or hosting a Bible study. It’s always a good idea to be prepared. Keep snacks on hand – out of site so they’re not a temptationJ . Something easy to keep around is a can of roasted nuts. If you heat them in a little olive oil or butter with some cayenne or cinnamon, they taste special and require next-to-no effort. I usually try to keep the fixings for a quick meal on hand too. If you have homemade tomato sauce in the freezer with a loaf of french bread, you can make spaghetti and garlic bread pretty quick without making your guests feel like you just threw something together. Keep some olives, pickles and cheeses on hand – they go great with crackers. And always have vanilla ice cream on hand (even if you have to hide it behind the frozen broccoli). It’s like a little black dress – you can dress it up with something. Topped with warmed peanut butter and/or melted chocolate chips it seems like you knew they were dropping by and planned something special.
I believe hospitality and charity go hand in hand. When we open our home to the needy we’re engaging in personal one-on-one charity and really helping that individual. Not just throwing money at a beggar hoping they’ll go away. I am always reminded of a story in Edith Schaeffer’s The Art of Homemaking. She tells about the "hobos" that often came to her door looking for a handout. Instead of turning them away or just giving them a few dollars, she had them sit on the steps and wait while she fixed them lunch on a tray – hot soup, a sandwich on thick cut bread. She even tried to include a flower and a small New Testament for them to take with them. While it may not be safe to do today (and probably wasn’t entirely in her day either), can you imagine how that man felt as he left her steps? God’s Word tells us "Do not be forgetful of hospitality, for by doing this some have entertained angels without knowing it" (Hebrews 13:2).
The key to hospitality is to always to keep in mind that your focus is doing what God wants you to do. If He’s led these people to your home, do what you can to make sure they feel wanted and welcome.