“How does hospitality affect justice?” His question echoed across the quiet living room, swelling and then settling among our friends seated there. I looked at my husband quizzically as my own thoughts began to take shape.
Hospitality + Justice. I’d never considered them equal parts of a pair.
Then a voice broke through the quiet. “I need your prayers,” she implored us. “I want to show hospitality, especially with the holidays coming, but I’m stressed about all the work and the preparations … how do you show hospitality without stressing about it?”
And that’s when it hit me … we have replaced hospitality with entertaining, and I’m not sure we even see it.
I love the idea and the execution of hospitality … open arms and flung-wide doors inviting people to take a seat at the table. I enjoy the preparation and the presentation. But what if there’s more to it? What if hospitality is more about healing hearts and less about entertaining events?
Hospitality. It’s a funny word, really. Five syllables and nearly as many vowels. It has both weight and depth, and it rings with meaning. The original Latin word—hospitalitem—translates as “friendliness to guests”. Later it appears in Old French as “ospitalité” and is interpreted to mean the intentional act of hospitality and a physical hospital.
It’s a word that conjures up images of open homes, flung-wide doors, welcoming arms, nourishing meals, and a healing refuge. Hospitality is especially poignant this time of year, as the darkness lingers a little longer and we welcome the arrival of the holiday season and all that it entails.
During this season especially, we long to give and receive hospitality, to create an environment conducive to the expression of it. And often in doing so we fret and fuss in an effort to get it right—the food, the house, the table, the gifts.
But what if in all our fretting we’re getting it wrong? What if our experience of hospitality isn’t hospitality at all? What if hospitality is less about hosting and more about our hearts, less about a tablescape and more about an actual place of escape … from fear, sickness, loneliness, homelessness, poverty.
What if hospitality is the vehicle through which justice is served? What if it’s a tangible picture of rescue and redemption? What if hospitality is the means through which the heart of the Gospel grows hands and feet?
Jesus exemplified true hospitality when he healed the sick, fed the hungry, wept with the mourners, ate with the sinners, loved the unlovable. His hospitality wasn’t a method of entertaining, rather it was the means through which he gifted grace. THIS is the hope of hospitality.
How would our expression of hospitality change if we ascribed to this THIS definition? And how would it affect our families, our neighborhoods, our communities? I challenge us to find out. So this holiday season—and always—let’s be a people who seek not to set a perfect place setting, but to leave space for the sick, the lonely, the outcast, the poor. And when the pressure, the stress, the expectations of the holiday season become heavy, may we remember that true hospitality is shown not in how we host, but in how we seek to gift grace.
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