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Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Art and Heart of Hospitality

We have no idea how wealthy we are just to have a roof over our heads. I take so much for granted. This struck home so profoundly to me today.

And it also struck me that our homes must be shared at all times, even (or maybe especially) when they look lived in. This is how these thoughts came to me:

My neighbor had texted me to ask for ice. When she came to my door, I gladly handed the frozen cubes to her. She then told me that she needed to drive her truck to the store just down the street so she could use the restroom there.

I know you think that you read that last sentence wrong, but you didn’t. You see, this neighbor and her husband, though they live across the street from us, do not live in a house.
Instead, these friends live in their tarped, broken-down truck. It runs, but barely. They have been our neighbors for three years, parked on the curb across the street from our house (though we’ve only gotten to know them better in the past two years or so).

My husband and I love these dear people. They are good friends and good neighbors. They are part of the “homeless” population by today’s standards though they themselves consider their truck to be home. But they do long to have a real roof over their heads as soon as possible.

But back to the story. Knowing that Estelle (not her real name), needed to leave quickly to get to the store to relieve herself, I promptly invited her in to use our restroom. She was so grateful.

As we entered the front door of my house, I apologized that the house was a little messy. And this was Estelle's response, “Please don’t worry about how your house looks. I would give anything to be able to say that.”

Did you get that? Estelle was saying that she would give anything to be able to make such an apology - to have a house that was a little messy to invite guests into, apologizing as I was. I can’t tell you how her response has sobered me!
The Lord has been impressing this message on me heavily for well over a year now. So what Estelle said has been that same message personified by the Holy Spirit through my neighbor. I must not ignore this!

My home (dare I say “our homes” since we are commanded to be hospitable many times in the Bible) must be open to others. We are even commanded to be hospitable to strangers.

Our homes are not museums where a janitor is constantly cleaning to make sure that the antiquities there remain dust-free so they can be admired by the visitors. A museum is a place where non-living things - even dead things - reside and people stare at them, awestruck, in order to connect with the past. Those who visit, walk through the museum till they reach the exit, never having rested all the while because museums are not made for resting.

Instead, my home should be a place where living beings reside, a place that is not constantly being cleaned but rather where people are productive and fruitful and also where they can rest from the living that happens there. Our homes exist for those who are living, not for the dead and/or inanimate.

Our homes should be fruitful and restful, and not just for us. They should be open for others to come in, sit down and find rest from their weariness (even if that means finding rest in the most humble room in our home - our bathroom). 

Our homes should also be a place where others can partake of the home-based fruits of our labors. Perhaps this would be lived out by providing a meal. And that does not have to be hard. It could be a meal of leftover soup from the day before (don't we say that the soup is always better the next day anyway?). Or that shared fruit could be a simple cup of coffee and an encouraging truth, ie., a spiritual fruit, that the Lord impressed upon you earlier in the day as you communed with Him through His written word. 
But back to the museum analogy, do I mean to imply that it’s wrong to clean my home? Of course not! It would be wrong for me to let my house go. What is wrong, however, is to operate under the misconception that my house must be “museum-clean” in order to have “guests” in. It’s wrong to think that my home must be picture-perfect for those who enter so that they can gaze in awe at the well-dusted, cared for and cherished furnishings (exhibits?) therein

The account of Zaccheus in the gospel of Luke helps me think deeper about how available my home is and, more to the point how available I am personally to serve others. This short little man, with a name that was bigger than he was, climbed up into a tree so that he could see Jesus above the crowds that obscured Him as He passed by.

We read in Luke 19:5, "When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, 'Zaccheus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.'"

Oh my! In reading this, I can't help but wonder what Zaccheus’ house looked like when Jesus invited Himself over to stay thereMy knee-jerk reaction would have been to panic, race home and try to get things in order. But what does the little tax collector do? Luke tells us, “So Zaccheus came down at once and welcomed Jesus gladly.” (Luke 19:6)

"So Zaccheus CAME DOWN..."! I would have been tempted to climb higher to get out of sight. But Zaccheus came down. In fact, the text continues to tell us, "So Zaccheus came down AT ONCE..."! He hurried down that tree. But that's not all, "So Zaccheus came down at once and WELCOMED JESUS..."! He didn't stress that Jesus was coming to stay at his home. It was quite the opposite. He welcomed Jesus and it wasn't just any halfhearted welcome. Not at all! Read his entire response to Jesus: "So Zaccheus came down at once and welcomed Jesus GLADLY"! Zaccheus was thrilled that Jesus had invited Himself to his house. Knowing that your house was a little messy, would you have responded so enthusiastically? Would I have?

At this point, I am thoroughly in awe of the dramatic, comprehensive and instantaneous heart change that the Spirit of God makes within this one who has been so enamored with and enslaved by money. Neither the Lord nor his fellow man was on Zaccheus’ radar until Jesus transformed him. Now he was all about Jesus instead, with his enthusiastic, joyful welcome to the Savior.
Should not this be my response, your response as well? If we are each a child of God, has He not transformed our hearts also? And when we welcome weary ones into our home, do we not likewise welcome the Lord Jesus in? 

At this point, there are so many challenging thoughts swirling through my mind. There is so much to explore and my heart needs a constant transforming tuneup. I want to explore this further so that I do not forget and so that I do practice the art and heart of hospitality in my place of fruitfulness and rest - in my home. 

In the next few weeks (God willing), I will be posting more about hospitality as it is practiced and commanded in the Bible. But for now, I have been so blessed to have shared with my neighbor the smallest, most humble room in my home, a room where she found rest in her weariness. Thank You, dear Savior, for this unforgettable opportunity! And thank You that when Estelle came for this short visit, You came with her and spoke to my heart.

Posted by Sharon Kaufman

The Art and Heart of Hospitality