Well, as always Jennifer Bell has some…interesting ways of conveying her thoughts! Ha ha! Seriously, though, I always appreciate hearing from and interacting with her. In particular, Jennifer listed some questions at the end of her recent blog post on the sermon on hospitality that I’d like to respond to and push back on a bit in a few areas.
1. Is hospitality the same thing as being sociable?
I don’t think so. I think you can be friendly, sociable, a “fun at parties and dinner conversations” type of person—but not actually be hospitable. If I’m right that hospitality involves having a spirit of truly welcoming someone into real life and relationship with you, then that will mean more than just being sociable.
2. Are introverts or shy people at a disadvantage in this biblical mandate?
Not at all! I think this is one of the big misleading things about this topic, that hospitality is for extroverts. There are extroverts who aren’t hospitable and introverts who show amazing hospitality. Arguably, introverts are the best at being hospitable because they have the ability to focus on just one person and to go deep with that one person (which is better than being superficial with a whole bunch of people).
If you are introvert, you may not have the ability to interact with as many people as an extrovert would. But this is not a contest. God is not going to compare us to each other and only be happy with the people who went to lunch with the most amount of people. The call here, as it always is, is to be faithful to what God has called you to and how He has made you. If your capacity is to be welcoming and building a sense of family in Christ with only one person a week, I say praise God! (I also would say that you shouldn’t be surprised if the Lord might, over time, expand your capacity, as you’re faithful to Him in this.)
3. What about if one feels content in one’s “den”? Must one come out, pending availability?
Um, yeah, Jennifer, I kind of think you need to. Again, it doesn’t have to look like how other people do it. Jesus went far out of His comfort zone to meet us where we were at, shut up to the point of slavery in the “den” of our sin, if you will, in order to save us and welcome us into the family of God. And now Romans 15:7 tells us that we are to welcome others in a manner that is like Jesus, which means being willing to go out of our comfort zones at times in order to meet people where they are at. Yes, some will be able to do more than others. But the goal here isn’t to have 100 people over your house this month. The goal here is to seek to have more and more the kind of spirit and relational interaction with others that says, “I am willing to extend myself for your sake.”
4. And can we talk money? I’m sure you’ve noticed. Hospitality costs money. Those meal-sign ups? They cost money. What are poor people supposed to do? How about the middle class? Are we exempt?
I think this is another myth about what hospitality requires. No, it doesn’t mean we have to spend lots of money. In fact, I would argue that poor people in Third World nations are way more hospitable than we here in the wealthy West, even though they have meager resources. My family background is Haitian, and one of the things I have always noticed is how whenever I visit some of my extended family, they are always eager to offer me a seat at the table and a little bit of rice, even when I know that they didn’t have much more beyond that. Hospitality is about welcome, fundamentally. And so anyone can be hospitable.
That being said, yes, if a poor person shares a bit of their rice, it is going to be a sacrifice for them. But that’s not a bad thing. Are we really wanting to say that poor people are unable to experience the gospel blessing of sacrifice and generosity? It is to their blessing for them to be hospitable. We should not keep them from that blessing. And for us to be challenged by the example of the poor still being able to be hospitable even in spite of their worldly poverty. As it says in James 2:5, “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He has promised to those who love Him?”