By Esther Hylden
1 Peter 4:9
Ladies…isn’t this the scariest verse in the Bible? Did Peter really know what he was talking about when he slipped that verse in between the End Times, Prayer, and a discussion on Love? Did he know how long it takes me to clean my house, including vacuuming , washing the floors, dusting, cleaning the bathrooms, picking up and organizing the clutter that threatens to overrun our home, making food…all the while taking care of children, answering the phone…and to do it all without grumbling??? What was he thinking? Or maybe the better question is, what was I thinking about when I read, “Be Hospitable…without grumbling.” Am I the confused person? Am I the person mixing up Entertaining with Hospitality?
Many years ago, I read Open Heart Open Home by Karen Mains, and you could say that is changed my heart, and my life. Karen Mains is a Pastor’s Wife, she wrote this book during their time of ministry in the inner city of Chicago. During this time, they rented church space on Sunday morning, thus the Mains home was open to Council Meetings, Bible Studies, Counseling sessions, their neighbors, people who needed a place to stay; it was the site of almost weekly suppers for people in their parish and popcorn parties. It was the house where neighbor kids came to play. Karen knew what she was talking about! As a young wife, I took what she said to heart. I grew up in a hospitable home, my Dad was a pastor, and my parents hosted many meals, housed many missionaries, VBS teams, visiting speakers and neighbors. I learned to “serve from the Left, clear plates from the right!” It seemed that the best conversations always occurred around the dinner table. So…I was comfortable with having people over… or so I thought!
When I read this book, I was in my early 20’s, married to Mark, and living in married student housing at NDSU. The first Thanksgiving that we were married…I decided to host Thanksgiving for both sides of our family. Our little married student housing measured around 12 ft by 50 ft! We borrowed a card table and chairs, and squeezed 10 people in our little apartment! It was a lot of fun, we had more than enough food, and somehow the turkey fit in our little oven. The Bible has a lot to say about hospitality… in 1 Timothy 3:2 it reads; “Now the overseer (what is an overseer? It can refer to a pastor or church leader) must be the husband of one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable…and hospitable!”
Hospitality…what exactly does it mean? What is God telling us to do? Especially in contrast to what our society calls “entertaining.” Karen Mains puts it this way: Entertaining has little to do with real hospitality. Entertaining’s source is human pride. Entertaining says, “I want to impress you with my beautiful home, my clever decorating and 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.” Hospitality focuses on the guests, their needs; whether it is a place to stay, a hot meal or a listening ear. Hospitality can occur in a messy house, sitting around a table eating a warmed up can of soup.
Entertaining always puts things before people. “as soon as I get the house finished, the living room decorated, my housecleaning done—then I will start inviting people over.” “Hospitality however puts people before things. Hospitality says, “We have no furniture; we’ll eat on the floor, the decorating may never get done, please come just the same.” I understand this all very well…when our children were young, we spent a Sunday attending many High School graduation parties…when we were on our way home; Jarrod said to me, “Mom, did you know that some people have matching furniture?” Obviously, he had been raised in a home filled with mismatched, hand-me-down furniture!
The desire for a lovely home is a common desire, and sometimes this longing becomes a barrier to our Lord’s directive, “Be Hospitable”. When I was a little girl, I used to draw house plans…I filled notebooks with plans for the house that I hoped to live in someday. They were quite grand, filled with many rooms, and I even remember outfitting one with a bowling alley! When I was a newlywed, many of our friends built homes, or moved into lovely homes. However, we were a struggling farm family…and we built a basement, thinking that we would stay in it for 2 years, and that then we would finish our home. 2 years stretched to 5, 10, 15 and finally, about a year ago, after 25 years, we finished our home and moved out of the basement! That was a joyful day! So how do you think that I felt about being a basement dweller for 25 years? Well…we had many moments of joy, and laughter often filled the walls…and we had some moments, especially in the winter when we had blizzard after blizzard, and we had to spend day after day in our little space, that I thought I would go crazy! So, I guess that I would say that living in a basement home, without a garage in Northern North Dakota for 25 years was not easy…in fact it was very hard. At first I would pray every day, please God let us finish out house soon…day after day, year after year. Then, I got a little mad at God…and Mark…and had a slump…a time of bitterness. One day, during my dark time, I read 1 Thessalonians 5: 16: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It seemed like a light bulb went off in my head…”God is telling me to give thanks…now…in everything…” And so, in obedience, I started to give thanks, I thanked Him for our two bedroom, basement home…I thanked Him for the dirty dishes that I had to wash, I thanked Him for the piles of laundry that threatened to overflow the laundry room…I thanked Him for my husband, I thanked Him for our sons, I thanked him for my job… And so the years passed, we didn’t wait to be hospitable until we had a grand home. We opened up our little basement home with the ugly entry way, to many youth group events, bonfires, decorating Christmas cookie parties, holiday meals, sledding parties, suppers with friends, 4th of July parties, Bible Study’s, coffee parties, pre-hunting meals, meals for the combining crew. I didn’t apologize for my home; I welcomed people as they walked down the ugly outdoor entry to the door that lead to our house. And I learned, that hospitality is not about having a perfect house, it’s not about making the perfect gourmet meal…it is about Loving God, and loving others, it’s about sharing the Good News of the Gospel. Because… a Christian home is a miracle, it is a treasure, and God calls us to share it.
Now…you may be saying to yourself…that is all fine and dandy…but how can I live this out in my life? I can barely get the breakfast dishes cleaned up before lunch??? Even though we all say that our house doesn’t have to be perfect…we know that we don’t want our home to be a health hazard!
Continued next week………………………………