This article by Jen Schmidt was originally published in the December 2018 issue of HomeLife. Want to read more from Jen? Check out her 7-session Bible study on biblical hospitality, Just Open the Door.
Have you started singing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” yet? Admittedly, I’m a humming machine right now. The sights, sounds, and nostalgia of the holiday season have drawn me in and my senses are celebrating from the simple pleasures. As I snuggle in my cozy blanket on the sofa, candles flicker on our kitchen table, twinkly white lights grace the doorframes, soft music plays in the background, and the aroma of sweet treats permeate the kitchen. (Frozen cookie dough for the win.) The kids’ giggles echo from upstairs as they play with their friends and the song’s stanza “kids jingle belling” brings about new meaning.
It’s the kind of easy evening captured in movies. The kind of easy evening in which everyone wishes they could be included — one with friends and family, community and conversation.
I keep humming, “It’s the hap-happiest season of all. With those holiday greetings and gay happy meeting when friends come to call….”
And then my eyes skim the rest of our home. I spy the sink flooded with the morning’s dishes, the laundry piles towering on the chair, the foyer stacked with boxes, my overbooked day planner, and somewhere along the way my Normal Rockwell portrait shatters amid real life.
Simple Acts of Hospitality
The thought of “parties for hosting” gets tossed to the curb. Panic sets in. Friends can’t come calling — my house is too small, too disorganized, too loud to practice any kind of hospitality. There’s no room for more stress in my already maxedout schedule. Do any of these scenarios ring true to you?
When we think of hospitality, our desire is to welcome others and make people feel included, but we get stuck. It’s exhausting just thinking of how to create a place of belonging. Making food, cleaning the house, and facilitating conversation can be nerve-racking. For some of us, hospitality is a vulnerable act because we’re welcoming people not only into our homes, but our lives and our stories. Inviting others in sometimes feels more like inviting judgment, so why even bother?
I understand. I’ve been there too. We all come to the table with preconceived notions and experiences that shape our view on the topic. But what if you knew that opening your front door had the power to radically change the world? To make an impact and leave a legacy with everyday invitations? What if I guaranteed that biblical hospitality offers us a simple yet radical and life-giving vehicle to welcome others and point them to the fullness of life in Christ?
This isn’t an over-promise-under-deliver experiment. Opening our home is the living, breathing, God-ordained path to walk out the abundance of the gospel in our everyday lives through simple acts of hospitality.
It begins by understanding the difference between social entertaining and biblical hospitality.
Biblical hospitality offers our best to God first, understanding that our best to others will then fall into place. It transforms our selfish motives and elevates our guest. When the hospitable hostess swings wide the door, all her attention focuses outward: “You’re here! I’ve been waiting for you. No one is more important today than you, and I’m thrilled you’ve come.” The posture we assume in hospitality is one that bends low, generously offering our heart to another despite whatever interruption to our own plans or comfort.
Hospitality, unlike entertaining, treats everyone as a guest of honor rather than grasping at honor for yourself. Opening your door has nothing to do with the actual setting, the guest list, or the food.
Status-seeking versus servanthood.
“Here I am” versus “Here you are.”
Self-serving to serving others.
The Heart of Hospitality
Over and over I’m reminded that we have no grand blueprint for hospitality aside from loving others. God drew up hospitality so that it gravitates around this core component of His greatest commandments: to love God and love others. There’s no separating these two instructions. Jesus didn’t even pause, like He could have, before presenting these twin commandments as a united whole. The way we love our neighbor reveals something about the way we love God. And the way we love God reveals something about the way we love our neighbor.
The reason we open our door is because we’re driven by the main principles of hospitality: loving Him, loving His will, and following His will into loving others.
The deep-seated worrying, the excuses, and the overthinking of a simple invitation should be warning signs, telling us we’re allowing social entertaining to hijack the heart of hospitality. Practicing hospitality isn’t a “one and done” event or function like entertaining. Scripture casts an intentional vision for a lifestyle and legacy of everyday hospitality. When we use our lives exactly as they are, desiring only to create a sacred space for our guests, mixing it with the countercultural truth of loving Jesus and loving others, we turn entertaining upside down, and it becomes radical hospitality.
When the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to how the theology of hospitality saturates the pages of Scripture, something shifted in my spirit. No longer conditioned to think of it in entertaining terms, I saw God’s fingerprints of hospitality cover the entirety of Scripture. One of His first acts demonstrates His hospitable nature as He welcomes humanity home to live in the beauty of the garden with Him, and then provides everything they need. It continues to thread through nearly every chapter from Genesis to Revelation where it culminates with His final divine act of generous hospitality: the marriage feast.
Beginning in the Old Testament, practically speaking, God tells us to welcome and love the stranger. Within the context of that ancient culture, God instructed His people to give of their time, energy, and whatever meager possessions were on hand, demonstrating hospitality to traveling strangers by feeding and housing them after an exhausting journey. In the New Testament, hospitality is said to be a distinctive mark of the Christian church. Early believers took seriously the command to use their homes as places for extending grace to others.
Among the most direct, concise biblical statements on this subject is what Paul says in Romans 12:13: “Pursue hospitality.” It’s not a question. In fact, pursue is a strong verb that implies constant or continuous action, a proactive decision. This verse doesn’t suggest that some people have the gift of hospitality while others lack it. No, we’re all meant to be in the habit of pursuing hospitality. It’s a command to love others well in a tangible way. Based on our season of life, our interests, our budget, and our family, hospitality will look different for everyone. There’s no right or wrong way to offer this gift of invitation, but as His image bearers, we’re to do it. Here’s where the blessing comes in: As we obey what God commands we see this biblical instruction transforming from an active command to a deep, profound, yet simple calling — one we pursue first out of love, only to find it too contagious for us to stop.
When I replay this truth about God’s sufficiency in my heart, confident that He can transform lives in spite of me, all those over-the-top expectations go away. Because, again, it’s not about me. I have nothing to prove.
Let this truth sink deep. Receive it as absolute freedom. Stop striving for the unattainable, stop worrying about what others think of your performance, and focus solely on our One-person audience, knowing this focus will always lead to loving others.
I’ve purposed in my heart to claim this December as His, and I invite you to join me. This Advent season celebrates our Savior’s birth through the simplest of arrivals, so follow His lead. Don’t over complicate, over schedule, and overthink this precious season. Grace on. Guilt off.
Be intentional today about carving margin into your December calendar. Mark in free days and guard that down time like it’s your job. Release unrealistic expectations and embrace the beauty that comes from simplicity. I’ve learned that special moments, created with love and intentionality, are embraced and appreciated just like those that took weeks of planning.
It’s truly the little things that are the big things in life, so rather than seeing hospitality as one more hectic line item on your busy to-do list, ask God to open your heart to new ways of loving others, right where you are with exactly what you have. He has called, equipped, and appointed you to do amazing things in whatever role you work or serve. Look for those opportunities. Seize those moments. You can be the difference for that one person today. Just open the door.
For the last decade, Jen Schmidt has been encouraging, challenging, and cheering on women to embrace both the beauty and bedlam of their everyday lives on her popular lifestyle blog, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam. With a variety of topics—from easy dinner ideas and personal finance to leaving a legacy—Jen equips others to live life to its fullest, reminding them it’s the little things that really are the big things in life. A popular speaker, worship leader and founder/host of the annual Becoming Conference, Jen shares with humor and authenticity as she invites others to join her on this bumpy, beautiful life journey. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, five children, a few too many animals, and an available sofa for anyone who needs it. Follow Jen on Instagram and Twitter.
Want to read more from Jen? Check out her Bible study on biblical hospitality, Just Open the Door.