In my previous article, we talked about emerging from COVID with a commitment to show hospitality. Now, let’s jump into some hospitable ideas:
#1 – Invite solicitors into your home.
It may be a salesperson, a neighborhood kid raising money, a door-to-door evangelist–whatever it is, hearing the doorbell might make you run and hide. But think of this from an empathetic perspective: no one likes solicitors, and they are often met with slammed doors, emphatic “no”s, lies and excuses, etc. Add to that walking from door to door often for little pay, and it’s a hard job.
You may have zero interest in whatever the person is asking for, but the door they knocked on is still yours.
Treat them as a guest. Be kind. Offer a drink, a snack, a seat, and listen to them. Send them off with a water bottle and something to eat on the road. You can still be kind and not interested in what they have to offer. Chances are you will have the biggest impact on them. (This one deserves a repetition of the caveat that you should, of course, be wise; you can always still treat them kindly on your front porch.)
#2 – Give a ride.
There was a moment I’ll never forget, when I was a young teenager and my family was driving home from a church event. It was in the middle of summer, and we passed by a man walking down the street in a suit. Mom asked Dad if we could give him a ride, and we pulled over, rolled down the window, and offered him a ride. He was sweating and fanning himself, and he was very appreciative. He climbed into our van, and we drove him to what we assumed to be his home.
But when we drove away, we looked out the back window and didn’t see him. It was like he disappeared.
My mother told my sisters and me, “Girls, that may have been an angel we just entertained,” referencing Hebrews 13:1-2. If you see someone walking down the road, and if you have someone in the car with you, pull over, roll down the window, and see if you can take them to their destination. Use the time in the car to lift them up and be an ambassador for Christ.
#3 – Have a dinner.
It’s amazing how food can connect us, and having a dinner in your home is twice as effective. There are plenty of examples of home meals being the center of discipling opportunities (Mark 2:15-17, Luke 9:13-17, Acts 2:42-46, Acts 20:7, to name a few), and if it’s not already, this should be a common practice for you.
Many people try to limit going out for dinner for maybe one night a week; I would encourage you to also invite someone to your house for dinner at least one night a week.
Inviting friends and loved ones is, of course, an option to help you all grow in fellowship; but remember that this is an opportunity for discipleship.
Invite a Timothy in your life–someone who is young in their faith and looking for mentorship. Or maybe even invite a Paul–someone you look up to spiritually and want to learn from. Invite a person you see regularly but want to know better–your child’s teacher, your neighbor, the worker at the grocery store, a coworker, your doctor, the custodian where you work, etc. Invite a non-believer, or someone who is very different from you.
If your guest is from a different culture, you might even invite them over to learn how to cook a dish that is traditional to you or, better yet, have them teach you how to cook something traditional to them! The point of this dinner is not to convert; it is to love and to serve. Dinner conversations often organically become good opportunities for deep discussion, and they can easily turn to late night hours of vulnerability, growth, empathy, and discipleship.
#4 – Treat a homeless person or someone down on their luck.
I know the way we respond to beggars is a debatable topic, but let me make this suggestion: if someone asks you for money, do them one better and give them what they want money for. If food, go eat together. If gas, help them fill up their car. If clothes, go with them to buy something. James 2:15-17 reminds us that sending a needy person away without help is like faith without works–dead.
#5 – Host a traveler.
When most people think of hospitality, this is probably what they think of: welcoming someone to stay for a night or two, even if it is a stranger. There are many ways you can find someone who needs a place to stay for a short trip.
The most common way is probably word of mouth; a friend might tell you of someone visiting who needs a bed for a night, the church might let you know of someone who is coming into town, a neighbor might ask you if you have an extra room, etc. But there are also resources like CouchSurfing.com, AirBNB, Craig’s List, HomeStay.com, and Facebook Marketplace that will allow you to list a room for availability.
In his parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25, Jesus talks about a time when God will separate the righteous from the unrighteous. His examples of righteousness include feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, and housing strangers. He says,
“Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.”
#6 – Host an international or exchange student.
In 2016, my husband and I were a bit of an emergency backup for a student from Switzerland who was studying at the language school for only a month. From then, we were hooked. We have since had twelve long-term house guests from six countries, from as short as two weeks to as long as thirteen months, male and female, from sixteen years old to over forty.
It has been an incredible blessing for us, and we are confident God has used the opportunity to plant seeds in the people we have housed. It’s important to remember that, most times, someone who is interested in homestay is already pretty open.
There are usually two options for housing: apartments or homestay. Some may get an apartment by themselves or with others from their culture. Some more open for adventure might ask for an American roommate. But those really wanting to immerse themselves look for homestay.
They want to be surrounded by the language, food, and culture–and that includes your deepest beliefs.
Now of course, it is not a good idea to push your faith onto anyone; one of the greatest blessings God has given us is the right to choose Him. But you can invite a house guest to go to any spiritual events you attend throughout the week (worship services, Bible classes, small groups, volunteer activities, etc), and then that gives you a prime time to explain what you believe and how it affects what you do throughout the week.
Even if your guest is not interested, your act of hospitality and the example you show is enough to plant a seed:
“By this, all people will know you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
You can talk to the international student department at a local university to see if there are opportunities to house students.
Hospitality is important to the work of God, and it seems to be something not easily practiced for most people. Serving others through hospitality means self-sacrifice, but it is easily identifiable as also serving God (Matthew 18:20, 25:31-46). Hospitality is also an example and a command given to us by Jesus (Romans 15:7, Hebrews 10:25, Romans 12:13, Luke 14:13-14, Acts 10:28).
Following this command of hospitality means sharing blessings with others, building meaningful relationships, and ultimately showing the love of God. I am hopeful for the day when hospitality becomes so natural in the kingdom that when someone like the housing director at my school comes to ask for possible hosts, there will be a long waiting list of eager workers ready to serve.