Speaker and writer Rosaria Butterfield shares on what Christian hospitality looks like and the impact it can have for the Kingdom of God. The following is a lightly edited transcript.
Christian hospitality is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the church today. So what is hospitality? Hospitality simply is this: it is meeting the stranger and embracing that stranger as a neighbor, and meeting a neighbor, and by God’s power, embracing that neighbor as someone who will be part of the family of God.
Hospitality vs. Entertainment
Hospitality is living your transparent Christian life before a watching world that despises you. Hospitality is not entertainment. It is not meant to show off what you know how to do well. Hospitality is living your transparent Christian life before a watching world that despises you. That kind of has hospitality happens actually every day. We started practicing daily hospitality to respond to a crisis in our neighborhood, and we realized that the regularity of it was not only easier on our family, but very fruitful for evangelism.
What Hospitality Looks Like
And here’s what it looks like: I mean, it is not fancy at all. It means that at about 5:30, I am finished homeschooling my children, whether I’m finished or not, someone should take me out of there for their good and my own. And it also means that at that time, people start wandering into our home. Many people who would start would be singles from our church. It’s extremely important to use hospitality to build up the family of God. It is extremely important for people who are sacrificially living a single life to know that they are part of a family that’s called the family of God. And family gathers daily.
The night is pretty predictable. We have table fellowship, we have a short Bible lesson that my husband leads, we often sing a psalm, and then we pray. And you don’t have to worry about what your unbelieving neighbors think because they’re sitting there passing the potatoes, and they’ll be more than happy to tell you what they think. And what happens when you are in the practice of doing this is you can take the gospel upstream of the culture war where it belongs.
One of the biggest challenges Christians have today is they feel like the vocabulary has changed, especially with the sexual revolution. They don’t even know how to call people anymore. And that can be very destabilizing. It can be disarming in the wrong kind of way. But when your relationships are as strong as the words you need to use, you’re not on thin ice. You’re on the rock of Christ. And it’s in that context that you start to see the Lord working in the lives of people.
Now, here’s what hospitality is not. Hospitality is not looking at your calendar and figuring out when you’ve got a little free time and shoving people into that because people’s crises don’t fit into your boundaries. I can guarantee it. This kind of hospitality might sound really kind of off the wall, but this was how I lived when I lived as a lesbian in the 1990s. And when I became a Christian, I really thought that Christians lived on a starvation diet of hospitality. They didn’t think so, but I thought so. And so my hope is that as Christians see that it’s actually easier to do more than less, we’re going to see the fruit of gospel life being played out in our most desperate neighbors.