Yesterday, I was reading some devotional material and came across a bit on hospitality that is simple, yet important.
“Christian hospitality differs from social entertaining. Entertaining focuses on the host: the home must be spotless; the food must be well prepared and abundant; the host must appear relaxed and good-natured. Hospitality, by contrast, focuses on the guests. Their needs – whether for a place to stay, nourishing food, a listening ear, or acceptance – are the primary concern. Hospitality can happen in a messy home. It can happen around a dinner table where the main dish is canned soup. It can even happen while the host and the guest are doing chores together. Don’t hesitate to offer hospitality because you are too tired, too busy, or not wealthy enough to entertain.” (Life Application Study Bible Devotion, Day 264)
As I was thinking about this short reflection, I was reminded of how our practice of hospitality in the church can sometimes be selfish.
Here’s what I mean by that: In the church, our practice of hospitality tends to be on our terms. Hospitality is practiced in a manner that fits our wants, our needs, our desires. Hospitality in the church, at times, is more focused on what makes us feel good rather than what might make our guests feel safe, comfortable, and accepted. Hospitality is practiced in a manner where we offer what we believe people want/need rather than actually identifying what people desire.
If hospitality is in our terms, then it really isn’t hospitality.
When selfish hospitality is called out, we tend to get defensive. We have a hard time believing that what we value, appreciate, and enjoy might actually make our guests uncomfortable. In our defensiveness, we blame our guests. We ask things like, “Well, how could you not feel welcomed and a part of things when we do ______? Something must be wrong with them if they don’t enjoy _______”
Selfish hospitality believes that our guests should become just like us. They should learn to like what we like. They should learn to behave like we behave. Instead of admitting that some of our practices might actually be inhospitable, we indicate that the real problem is not with us, but with the guest.
If we are truly going to practice hospitality, we need to be willing to put others needs ahead of our own. If something is clearly offensive or creates a roadblock for our guests, we should probably rethink the practice. We need to be willing to accept people as they are. We need to be willing to learn from our guests. We need to take the focus off ourselves and place it on our guests. Their needs should trump our needs.
How have you practice selfish hospitality? Are there practices you need to let go of in order to be more considerate to the needs of your guests?
“Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home.” ~ Romans 12:13