Offer Hospitality


Offer hospitality to one another
without grumbling.
1 Peter 4:9*

I was not allowed to grumble when I was a kid. During the summer, my mom made me pay her ten cents every time I complained about it being too hot. My income was limited, so I kept my mouth shut.

My own parenting technique with grumbly children was less subtle. “Hey kids, do you know what happened to the Israelites when they complained? The earth opened up and swallowed them.” (Dubious looks from four sets of skeptical eyes.) “Yep. It’s right there in Numbers 16:32. See for yourself. The ground opened up. The grumblers got swallowed.”

Not my best parenting moment.

This is the only “one another” that warns against grumbling. Why is that?

Not everybody is a hostess with the mostess. PB and I have been in homes where no one offered to take our coats (so we tossed them in a corner), we weren’t asked to come in and sit down (so we stood around awkwardly), nothing was offered to eat or drink (although cookies sat on a plate all evening). Sometimes people just don’t know how to be hospitable.

The problem is, we tend to get hospitality confused with entertaining. When entertaining, we assume our house has to be perfect, our food has to be gourmet, and our conversation has to be riveting. That’s stressful. Hospitality is opening up our homes, our hearts, and our lives, just as we are, and making others feel welcome and comfortable enough to put their feet up on the coffee table.

The Greek word for hospitality is
philoxenos
which actually means
love (philos)
for strangers (xenos).
Yes, strangers.

This idea was demonstrated for me when I was about seven years old. An elderly gentleman showed up at our door one night during a snowstorm. His car had gone into the ditch out in front of our house and he had trudged his way up our driveway in a blizzard. I watched as my mother helped him into the living room and tenderly took off his wet shoes and socks. She warmed up some supper for our unexpected guest and made up a bed on the couch. It was a bit unsettling going to bed that night, knowing that a stranger was sleeping in the house. I don’t remember him leaving the next morning or getting his car pulled out of the ditch or ever hearing from him again.

 Mostly what sticks in my memory is how my mother made an old man feel welcome and comfortable in our home during a snowstorm.

Hospitality is a test for godliness because those who are selfish do not like strangers (especially needy ones) to intrude upon their private lives. They prefer their own friends who share their lifestyle. Only the humble have the necessary resources to give of themselves to those who could never give of themselves in return.” (Erwin W. Lutzer)

There are strangers all around us: in our neighborhoods, at the post office and grocery store, even in the next pew. We are called to push ourselves outside our friendly (cliquey?) circles and show some love to people we don’t know very well.

And do it without grumbling, or you know what might happen…

Dear Lord, it seems impossibly hard right now to extend hospitality to friends, let alone strangers. Yet not one of Your commands include the words “unless there is a pandemic”. Show us how to display welcoming love to people even under these strange conditions. Especially under these strange conditions. We need the Holy Spirit’s creative power to be at work in us, giving us energy to look beyond ourselves. Forgive our grumbling and remind us we are here on earth because of Your kind hospitality. Help us, Your children, to offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

*Part fourteen in a series on “The One Anothers”.

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