“Entertaining says, ‘I want to impress you with my beautiful home, my clever decorating, my gourmet cooking.’ Hospitality, however, seeks to minister. It says, ‘This home is not mine. It is truly a gift from my Master. I am His servant and I use it as He desires.’ Hospitality does not try to impress, but to serve.”
–Karen Burton Mains, Open Heart, Open Home.
As a searching young married couple of only 19 years old, my husband Jon and I and our baby boy wandered into a church of Christ. We met a couple named Bill and Wendi Capehart and that very day we were asked home to lunch. I don’t remember what we ate, but I do remember that our little boy played with their two little girls and we were invited back for a study that they had every Friday night in their home with a group of people. We were anxious to meet friends because we had lived in Okinawa for about 5 months and we enjoyed this day of sweetness.
Every Friday night we would come to the Capehart’s home and sometimes it would be held at some other Christian’s home. There would sometimes be games; always be Bible study, snacks and laughter. We could not keep ourselves away from their company! Neither could the numerous single, lonely military people who were stationed on the island. Before long, I was restored to Christ and Jon was taught the gospel and put on Christ in baptism.
I am certain that you either have a similar story, or you were instrumental in the needs of someone else and their story. Often times, the Lord reaches others with our love and our hospitality in order to reach people with His Gospel. In the first article of this series on hospitality, it was pointed out that hospitality is commanded to everyone. This time I would like to share one of the most encouraging lessons in my personal walk and how it changed how I serve God and His church. Hospitality has NOTHING to do with entertaining and EVERYTHING to do with SERVICE!
I think that we as women want our homes to be clean and smell pretty. We want things to look “just so” when we have company over. Do you realize that God really does not care that everything is perfect before we invite someone into our homes? He does not care that we are the best cooks, own the prettiest dinnerware, have every stitch of laundry finished and put away before we offer to invite someone home. He doesn’t even care if there is a spot for everyone at our dinner table…people enjoy sitting around the living room and chatting so long as there are enough people to visit and laugh with. All we can do is our best when serving God and others, and He will bless the rest!
A book that I was given by Mrs. Capehart as a young Christian that completely changed my thinking on hospitality was what I quoted from at the beginning of this article. A quote in her book by Frances Schaeffer, who had founded a shelter which he began in his own home by bringing in drug addicts, young girls who had sexually transmitted diseases, multiple abortions and it sounded like pretty much any problem that this sad world is dealing with:
“Our sheets were torn. Holes were burned in our rugs. It couldn’t happen any other way… How many times has this happened to you? You see you don’t need a big program. All you need to do is open up your home. And there is no place in God’s world where there are no people who will come and share a home as long as it is a real home… If you have never done any of these things or things of this nature, if you have been married for years and years and had a home (or even a room) and none of this has ever occurred, if you have been quiet especially as our culture is crumbling about us, if this is so- do you really believe that people are going to hell? And if you believe that, how can you stand and say, ‘I have never paid the price to open my living place and do the things that I can do’”?
While this is quite a radical look at hospitality, it was extremely convicting to me. It still is and brings tears to my eyes as I read these words. Whose lives can I be reaching just by opening up my home and showing the love of Christ to them? Do I open my home and life only to those that I want to spend my time with? Even though we all may not be at a place in our lives– due to the fact that we might still be raising little children– to open our homes to overnight guests who might be a danger to our children, why can’t our homes be a place of refuge and light to Christians and non-Christians alike? Look with me at 1 Peter 4:1-11,
“Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God. The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Clearly, our time together is not meant for our own personal “party time.” While I am sure none of us desire to party in excess as is described in verses 1-5, do we view hospitality as a time to “entertain”? Verses 8 and following make it clear that hospitality is about service. Some women have the talent and means to bless people with their cooking and pretty dishes. I really do love that part of hospitality and I do not mean in any way to be saying that blessing others with our talents is wrong. It is when we focus on ourselves instead of those we are serving that we are missing the point. Let’s not focus on ourselves, but rather, focus on those we can love and serve for the Lord.
By Laura Warnes
Laura Warnes and her husband Jon serve with the Miller Street church of Christ. Jon works at the Bear Valley Bible Institute where he serves as Alumni Director. Laura is a homeschooling mom to their seven children still at home, (two have flown the coup) and is also a proud grandma to three beautiful grandchildren with one on the way in February.