IT’S NOT ENTERTAINING (Hospitality – Part 2)

Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. [1 Peter 4:9 (NLT)]

welcomeFor a Christian, being hospitable should be second nature but, for many, the thought of entertaining is terrifying. Entertaining, however, has nothing to do with hospitality. One has to do with cuisine, attire, atmosphere, and possessions, and says “Look what I have,” while the other has to do with love, respect, sharing, refreshment, and comfort and says, “What I have is yours!” One is meant to impress and the other is meant to bless.

The difference between entertaining and hospitality can be seen in a family friend whose Christmas dinners always consisted of a house full of friends and family who ate buckets of fried chicken and the trimmings using paper plates and plastic utensils all of which came from the Kentucky Colonel’s kitchen. While Martha Stewart may not have approved, this woman’s friends and family certainly did because it was about the people not the party! There may not have been Lenox china and linen napkins but there was plenty of love and laughter! We can be entertained lavishly and never feel welcome as happened to Jesus at the Simon the Pharisee’s or, like Elijah at the widow’s, we can be given the smallest morsel from a welcoming host and know faith and love.

Back in 2016, when the east coast of Florida was threatened by Hurricane Matthew, people fled to the Gulf side to escape the storm. Every hotel room here was occupied and the shelters were full. While working over coffee at Starbucks, our new pastor overheard a family of four talking. Evacuees from Miami, they’d arrived at their hotel only to discover that it was overbooked. The pastor tried to continue his work while they anxiously called around in search of a vacancy; there were no rooms anywhere. With all their belongings stuffed tightly in the car and barely enough space to sit (let alone sleep), they wondered what they’d do for lodging. The young pastor was less than a week in town and his small condo still was filled with boxes not yet emptied. He had a sermon to write and a long list of things that needed to get done. Nevertheless, he listened to the Holy Spirit’s voice and introduced himself to the family. Explaining that he and his wife didn’t have much room, he offered what little they did have. The mother’s first response was, “Thank God. Our prayers have been answered!”

God has a delightful sense of humor, proven by the fact that the pastor’s guests turned out to be a rabbi and his family! That family got more than just a carry-out pizza and a place to rest their weary heads—they got an evening filled with Christian hospitality, spirited conversation, and prayer. United by their love of God and a shared belief in what we call the Old Testament and they call the Hebrew Bible, the two families had much in common. When the storm passed and they departed, the Jewish rabbi invited the evangelical Christian minister to visit his family and join him at temple.

Welcoming family, friends, and even strangers in our homes and to our tables is far more important than where they sleep, whatever is put on their plates, or the kind of plates that are used. Anything prepared and shared with love is a worthy gift for all who enter our homes. If an angel comes to the door, we don’t want to turn him or her away just because the house isn’t tidy or we don’t have the makings of a gourmet meal. After all, there’s always the Colonel with his barrel of chicken!

Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! [Hebrews 13:1-2 (NLT)]

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