Your Neighborhood Hospital
Here’s the truth …
“We loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well” (1 Thess. 2:8 NIV).
When we first moved into our home about 12 years ago, we hosted a dessert party so that we could meet our neighbors. It was an enjoyable way for everyone to get to know each other better, and it was refreshing to hear people laughing and conversing as they milled about throughout my home. The bonus was all the sweet treats that graced my kitchen that week! Since then, though, we have connected mainly when outside or when we have the occasional baked good to share, but we really don’t hang out with our neighbors, nor do we know much about their personal lives like we should after 12 years of living here!
In general, I’d like to consider myself hospitable. My home has been opened to missionaries, camp leaders, a college student, small church groups, slumber parties, as well as friends and family for years. I love to entertain! But I can honestly say that I can do better when it comes to knocking on doors and inviting neighbors for dinner. A few years ago, my neighbor lost her mother, so I invited her to a cooking class where a missionary from China taught us how to cook Chinese food. For a month or so, we cooked together one night a week for homework. It was fantastic and very therapeutic for her. Shortly thereafter, my husband cut another neighbor’s grass without being asked during the weeks when he was recovering from knee surgery. Since then, though, we haven’t found ways to continue the momentum!
Lysa TerKeurst’s The Best Yes and Glynnis Whitwer’s Taming the To-Do List both caution how we should spend our time. If we say yes to something, what else needs to get sacrificed to make that possible? We can always use busyness as an excuse, so we must pare down our “yesses” to other things to make room for hospitality! We should make every effort to invest in someone who can grow in his/her faith, spend time with those who can help us to grow in ours, and meet new people in our neighborhoods, churches, and workplaces. God could be placing us right smack in the middle of their path because He believes that we will do something with that meeting that the average person will not.
Have you ever described God as hospitable? The entire Old Testament was replete with God’s hospitality as He graciously cared for His people—sending manna, a cloud by day, fire by night, big juicy grapes to lure them, and Ten Commandments to guide them. Earlier, He even “made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife” (Genesis 3:21 NLT). Yes, the Maker of the universe can add “seamstress” to His resume! Yet we often imagine a God who is powerful, vengeful, and fear-inducing and forget the amazing ways that He has shown His grace to us. He loved us so much that His plan for our redemption was to sacrifice His son for us, even when Adam and Eve messed up, even when the Israelites sinned again and again, and even when we sin long into the future. We need to emulate God’s hospitable ways.
My mother would tell me stories of my jovial Italian grandfather who would take early evening walks around his neighborhood. He would easily make friends with people he would meet along the way and would actually bring them home with him for dinner. My grandmother magically had plenty of food to accommodate his hobby of hospitality.
And isn’t this exactly what the early church mentioned in Acts looked like? We are told that “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people” (Acts 2:46-47a, NIV). And what was the takeaway from that as a result? Well, “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47b, NIV). God’s Kingdom grew by breaking bread together with people in their homes! You can try to invite people to church and stare at an empty pew when they don’t show, but I bet they’d come to eat a meal in your home without even batting an eye.
Jen Hatmaker, author of For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards, tells us that “We are not promised a pain-free life but are given the tools to survive: God and people” (2015, p. 116). If we isolate ourselves inside of our houses, we lose half of those tools! We have stopped leaving our homes to go out and find people to bring into them for breaking bread together. We pull into our garages and close down the doors before anyone who is outside can run up to interact with us. We desire our comfort, our sanctuary, our retreat, our food, our easy chair … much more than we desire to show people what Jesus is like by loving them in a personal way. Hatmaker says, “We live in a strange, unprecedented time when face-to-face relationships are becoming optional” (p. 115). What has happened to us as a society?
You can easily see the word hospital in hospitality, right? Ever think of your home as a hospital for your neighbors who live every day without Jesus? Dustin Willis, one of the authors of The Simplest Way to Change the World, explains: “Grasping that hospitality is a meaningful way that we care for spiritually sick people is why we … open [our] life and home to show others what it looks like to be an ordinary person who loves and follows Jesus” (2017, p. 70). Doing so follows what Paul says the disciples of the early church did: “We loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well” (1 Thess. 2:8 NIV).
What does your current lifestyle communicate to your neighbors about the character of God? Would they see God as hospitable through you or not? It’s time that we channel a bit of my grandfather and get out there this spring! Good bread can be purchased at your local store. Break it with someone new, and you will be fresh manna in a world that has forgotten what hospitality means.
… and that’s the truth as I know it.
Hatmaker, J. (2015). For the love: Fighting for grace in a world of impossible standards. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
TerKeurst, L. (2014). The best yes: Making wise choices in the midst of endless demands. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Whitwer, G. (2015). Taming the to-do list: How to choose your best work every day. Grand Rapids: Revell.
Willis, D., & Clements, B. (2017). The simplest way to change the world: Biblical hospitality as a way of life. Chicago: Moody.