In the days before television dinners and Twitter mobile, people entertained themselves by talking to other people–in person and for hours at a time. For children born in the twenty-first century, this may sound strange, even torturous, but it really happened. And as I recall, it was something that all who experienced it . . . enjoyed.
As a boy, I remember going to my grandma’s house and hearing countless episodes of how she learned to drive a buggy, parallel park, and reside in a collegiate boarding house for women. As strange as those things were to me, they were also deeply interesting. As we drank cheap ‘pop’—it was in Michigan—and ate cookies and ice cream, my family gave full attention to my octogenarian grandmother whose hospitality displaced my adolescent need for ‘cool.’
The Power of Hospitality
Hospitality has an incredibly powerful effect on people. Even those who have the roughest outward appearance are hard-pressed to complain when someone gives them a free hot dog at the park or invites them over for ice cream sundaes.
Hospitality—which literally means ‘love for strangers’ (philozenia)—does an incredible job to break down barriers, build bridges, and prepare hearts to talk about significant things. Believe it or not, the Internet just doesn’t have that ability. But when we labor to give someone a good meal—and the quality of the meal is important—we show them that we are not out to get anything. We only desire to give ourselves to them.
As Christians, in an increasingly post-Christian world, we need to lead the way in hospitality. In a world where executives slurp soup next to their laptop and groups of teenagers gather at Taco Bell to eat alone with their cell phones, we need to recapture the art of hospitality. It is a common grace to a world that lives in every-increasing isolation, and it is strategic means of sharing the bread of life with those with whom we dine.
The Challenge of Hospitality
Admittedly, this may mean that if we are to eat meals with strangers, we must take the initiative to invite people into our homes who are not like us. It requires embracing a certain kind of attitude that embraces awkward silence and maybe even a few cuss words rattling off our Christian decor. It means that we will have to elevate evangelistic meals over and above our safer ‘fellowship meals’—fellowship meals that rarely express true gospel-proclaiming koinonia.
As believers who love our neighbors, we must look for ways to pull outsiders in and love those who are strange to us. This is what Jesus did and it is a way that we can grow as Christians to reach our world. Even more, in a culture that continues to turn away from Christ this is exactly the step we need to take in order to reach those outside the church.
May God give us grace to look for strangers in our lives to whom we can invite into our homes so that we can show the love of God and the share the gospel message of Jesus Christ.
Soli Deo Gloria, dss