From Interruption to Opportunity
Updated: Apr 12, 2018
In my many years of practicing hospitality with families who are under extreme stress during a medical crisis away from home, I discovered that the American culture of entertaining guests does not even come close to living out the true practice of hospitality; showing brotherly love towards strangers.
Through my study of Biblical hospitality, an “Ah-Ha! Moment” happened when I came across Matthew 25, starting in verse 31, where Jesus explains the importance of how our faith and our works match up. It’s a well-known verse and you may recognize it:
34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”
What I learned through studying these verses, is that welcoming in a stranger (hospitality), is not something that we can schedule in our week or plan for, like saving up for a mission trip. Hospitality is actually an attitude we carry with us 24/7 because we have no idea at what point in our day we may encounter someone as described in these verses; the hungry, the thirsty, a stranger needing welcomed in- people with basic human needs, physical needs, emotional needs, and spiritual needs. How we respond to them in that moment is truly a heart attitude test on how we see Christ in our life.
Understanding how our personal homes are extensions of this attitude of hospitality is so important. While you might consider your home as your castle, your retreat, your place where you can lock out the crazy world and not be bothered, I would like you to reconsider this position. We are simply managers of the resources and blessings we’ve been given. How we use these temporary possessions to glorify God and serve others will end up being the legacy you leave.
OK, about now you may be thinking, “Toni, who are these strangers you want me to invite into my home?” Well, I’m not suggesting that you pick up hitchhikers and bring them home for dinner (although, I do know people who have done that successfully). But I am asking you to do a quick 360 degree view of the people you encounter during your week, but don’t really know. Those in your neighborhood, in your job, at church, in your hobbies, etc. We all encounter people in which we think we know because we see them in passing, we might even know their first name, but do we engage them in meaningful conversation? What if the next time you passed that same person with the generic phrase of “Hey, how are you doing?” and instead of them answering “Fine. Thanks.” They responded with, “Not too well. My mom was just diagnosed with terminal cancer.” Boom! A test of our attitude of hospitality has just been given. This one raw, honest, emotional answer to your casual greeting has just interrupted your day, your schedule, your plans. And that’s my point. Because hospitality is an attitude we carry with us, we must expect that it will be interruptive and unscheduled.
In Rick Warren’s very popular book, A Purpose Driven Life, the book begins with a slap in the face moment. “It’s not about you.” This paradigm shift will change how you see everything and everyone. When you are a practitioner of true hospitality, you learn this. Hospitality is not about you, the host. It is about the guest.
One of our culture keys at Philos Hospitality is this: People are not an interruption, they are our mission. While our small but mighty staff and volunteers have so much to do preparing to lodge, feed, and support 24 families each day of the year, we all know that when we encounter a guest, the task of delivering the mission always come second to the actual mission, the guest.
So, let's recap:
1) Remember, how we treat those in need is a direct reflection of our attitude towards Christ himself.
2) It’s not about you, it’s about the stranger, the guest.
Leave me a comment on what you learned or observed from this week’s Hospitality in Action. Thanks for reading!
Hospitality In Action Tip #2:
Seek connection with those around you and allow an interruption to become an opportunity for hospitality.