This past week I’ve found myself considering the idea of hospitality. The idea came up following both the announcement of courses in homemaking offered in Southern seminaries this fall as well as the responses to a blog post I wrote on the matter. The question of hospitality as an exclusively feminine endeavor aside, I have had reason to look at hospitality as a charge to all Christians—an often-difficult way to follow up love with service.
I found myself reminded of Luke 14:12-14, where Jesus says “when you give a feast” to “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” Jesus recommends giving in a way that expects nothing in return. As difficult as it may be, Jesus illustrates that our love for others, and especially for those unable or unwilling to love us back, ought to be demonstrated in our willingness to extend hospitality to them. Offering hospitality is the giving of oneself to another with no expectation, and as such, is an utterly loving act.
What’s more, though, is that after speaking of giving, Jesus teaches that when serving, one ought especially to serve those considered by society to be unequal to oneself. Loving hospitality, then, is transformed into an act of justice. As a hospitable act serves a common need (in this case hunger and the need to eat), it recognizes a certain commonality shared between people and thus serves as a great equalizer.
More than place settings and recipes, and more than simply an exhortation to “be nice,” the charge of hospitality is a difficult charge directed to all Christians, men and women, just as is the related charge to love. And yet, by loving enough to let that love lead to the practical service of another is also one of the most powerful ways to work against inequality, to work for justice, and to highlight what it is we have in common, rather than what we do not.
May we all be challenged to work for equality with great love and eagerness to serve.