Last summer, when I was looking for a new apartment, I knew I wanted a living situation where I could have people over. I hunted for an apartment that was small enough for me, but big enough to comfortably accommodate visitors.
God helped me find a cozy apartment with plenty of guest parking. My favorite thing about living by myself has been the freedom to have people over. Hospitality.
In a recent two week span, I had about fifteen different people over on seven different occasions, if I counted correctly. I had girls over for dinner a few times, hosted my women’s small group, and held Narnia club (a C.S. Lewis book club) in my living room.
I’ve served lots of tea, to the point that one friend claims her favorite mug each time she comes over. So many rich conversations have transpired over a steamy mug. It’s become a joy to me to welcome others in to my little home.
Hospitality isn’t an old fashioned practice; it’s a biblical command. The apostle Paul closed a paragraph on how Christians are to show love with “practice hospitality” (Rom 12:13 NIV) or “seek to show hospitality” (Rom 12:13 ESV). It’s a way to bless others, invest in others, and show Christ’s love to others.
Authentic, deep conversations about what God is doing are natural in the comfort of a quiet home. Maybe it’s over some homemade pizza at the kitchen table (Jiffy pizza crusts…the easy way to make pizza for a few friends!). Maybe it’s over hot chocolate in the living room sitting in the burnt orange recliner from a bygone era.
Hospitality is different than the vogue pastime of “entertaining.” Entertaining attempts to impress guests with witty conversation, classy dishes, trending hors d’oeuvres, and chic décor. Can you see a difference? The motivations of entertaining and of hospitality differ; the former brings attention to the hostess and things she provides while the latter points to Christ. When people come into my home, I want them to see Christ and not merely my handiwork.
Intentionality in hospitality provides opportunities for mentoring. I saw this first hand when I had two girls over for dinner who are both a few years younger than me. Within the flow of conversation, I was able to share some things that I’ve learned and observed about the stage of life they are entering.
Another night, a group of girls came over who are all older than me by a few years. Not only did we talk and laugh, but we shared life through lively conversation and animated anecdotes. As I listened to these girls, I took mental notes to store away for when I face similar situations. They were mentoring me, whether they realized it or not.
Having people over is great, but what if you don’t have a very big space? What if you aren’t a good cook? What if your apartment isn’t very cute or classy? These are challenges, but they are not impossibilities.
Maybe you can’t host you small group where you live. But can you bring cookies (homemade and store-bought are both delicious) to bless the hostess and share with the group? Instead of trying to have a dinner party, just invite one friend over to talk. The character of Christ that she sees in you is much more important than pristine décor.
As I’ve had opportunity to show hospitality, here are some things that I’ve learned.
- Keep it simple. It’s not necessary to have the whole evening planned out. It’s not necessary to have a four course meal. Casual conversation over a cup of tea or a slice of pizza is often more comfortable and relaxing.
- Remember that we are stewards of the things God has given us, so we have the freedom and the responsibility to use them in His service. Cookie crumbs can be vacuumed out of the carpet. Mugs are meant to be used, even at the risk of being dropped. Your apartment is allowed to look lived in because you’re inviting others into your life.
- Dinner at home with friends is often cheaper, and usually healthier, than going out to eat. Often when friends to my apartment come over for dinner, they each volunteer to contribute to the meal (a salad, rolls, or dessert). It’s a way for them to share in hospitality.
- Pray before, during, and after. As I’m washing up dishes before my company arrives, I often pray out loud (that’s what happens when you live by yourself!), dedicating the time and the conversation to God and inviting Him to have His perfect way. Pray together before dinner. If you listen purposefully to the conversation, you will often find ways to pray for your guests in the ensuing days and weeks.
In whatever way you practice hospitality, remember the point. The point of hospitality is not to impress or entertain. The point for us as believers is show Christ’s love and to bless others. Hospitality is a way to bless and love your neighbor.
When sharing about hopes and dreams for the future with some girls who were over, I mentioned that I hope to be married with a houseful of little ones running around someday. I know that when that time comes, I won’t be able to spend my Friday and Saturday nights with my girl friends. So, I’m choosing to praise God now for this single season of my life when I can practice hospitality so easily and freely. What about you? What is one way you can show Christ’s love through hospitality in the coming weeks?