We just spent the last month of our lives being hosted in a home with little to no furniture. There were no couches to sit on and at times there was barely enough seats around the kitchen table–er, I mean folding table at which we ate dinner. But it was one of the best experiences that we’ve had being hosted.
I would have been surprised, but I’ve experienced this before. Every week we visit the homes of North Korean defectors in South Korea. They will often cook for us and gladly share their lives with us. At times, they will even host us overnight. But it’s often very strange for American visitors (me included) because they have no beds, no kitchen table, no couches . . . and might I add, very small apartments! I often think that if a North Korean knew how strange it was for Americans they might actually refrain from having me over, but I would miss out on one of the most enriching experiences I’ve ever had.
At times I’ve had the mindset that I can’t have anyone over unless my house is spotless and the meal is perfect. And I certainly wouldn’t have anyone over without a couch, dinner table, or at least a chair to sit on. Pastor Jack King makes the observation that the mindset I’m describing has more to do with pride than with good hospitality. He says,
Hospitality is not a house inspection, it’s friendship. In an age of ever-increasing loneliness, in a time when Americans eat 40% of their meals by themselves, can I allow myself to value tidiness over community? Sadly, I’m sensing there’s pride lurking across the threshold of my welcoming mat. So here’s the way of repentance for us. For me and my house, we’re trying to eliminate complications, not add to them. We aren’t going to host people every night of the week (after all, I’m still an introvert), but I want more memories with friends new and old than I’ve had over the past 7 years.
This isn’t about never growing in Christ on the grounds that Jesus accepts us as we are. Even in arena of hospitality we are hopefully growing and becoming better hosts, by and through the grace of God. But we don’t wait until we’ve become perfect hosts. We all know the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), but have you taken time to consider what the story might have been like if Zacchaeus refused Jesus visit to his home? What if Zacchaeus had tried to reschedule for the following week? What if Zacchaeus had asked Jesus to come back another time because his house was dirty? What if Zacchaeus refused because he had to get his life in order first, perhaps first getting rid of all the treasures he had wrongfully accumulated before Jesus crossed the threshold?
The Bible says,
You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 19:34).
Hospitality isn’t necessarily an opportunity to impress with a spotless house, fine China and a gourmet meal (although there is a time for that). It’s an opportunity to treat others like one of our own, and it’s an opportunity to repent of the pride that has kept us from hosting. Practically speaking, that means we don’t wait to show hospitality until the time when we get a proper couch or when we have enough money to prepare a steak dinner. We host others even if that means sitting on the dusty floor with a bowl of ramen noodles!