Earlier this week, I was catching up on Season 2 of The Chosen and a quote from the first episode captured my imagination. In this episode James and John are working a field for an unknown purpose. John repeats his instructions from Jesus, “hospitality isn’t just for those with homes.” I love this thought! Although I’ve never been without a home, there have certainly been times when I felt like my home was insufficient for hospitality. But when Jesus tells us to be hospitable, he’s talking about loving and serving — not an impressive table setting.

It’s so easy to feel like hospitality is hosting an Instagram-worthy dinner party. A few years ago, I began digging more deeply into the meaning of hospitality. It’s such an important theme throughout Scripture, and it’s incredible how often it shows up when you’re looking for it. The hospitality of God is truly a radical and beautiful concept.

Small House, Large Heart

In a recent book club discussion for Kao Kalia Yang’s book, Somewhere in the Unknown World, the author shared a Hmong saying: “The house is always small, but the heart is large.” This poignant turn of phrase beautifully captures the heart of true hospitality. Even as it is not just for those with homes, hospitality is also not just for those with large or immaculate houses. I love that my parents taught and modeled this idea so well in my childhood. They emphasized that you don’t need a perfect space to graciously welcome people into your home. Whether our options are a tiny apartment or a spacious outdoor patio, what we really need are open hearts.

Hospitality to those who are difficult to love

For so long, I had an incomplete idea of what hospitality was. I knew that there were multiple passages instructing Christians to be hospitable. But when I pictured hospitality, my mind went to family and friends. I thought that I needed to be better at inviting those in my circle over for dinner. Although I had read Luke 14 and heard it preached many times, it was not something I acted on. It was easier to stick to my comfort zone with people who are like me. Jesus shows a different way.

“When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and [that] will be your repayment. “But when you give a reception, invite [the] poor, [the] crippled, [the] lame, [the] blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have [the means] to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Luke 14:12-14 NASB

As I began studying references to hospitality in Scripture, I was startled to realize the focus on hospitality specifically to strangers. Which makes sense considering the Greek word literally means “love for strangers.”

Just as Jesus instructed his followers to show hospitality to those unable to reciprocate, his disciples taught the importance of hospitality to strangers. (See: I Timothy 5:10, Hebrews 13:2, III John 1:4-6)

Photo from: The Happy Givers, Shared by: We Welcome Refugees

Heading into a new season

I have so much growing to do in my hospitality goals, and the last year has taken a toll. We are emerging from a season when hospitality often looked very different than we would prefer. Now as we navigate what “normal” looks like, I hope we use it as a time to reimagine what “normal” should be. I hope that we don’t get swept back into old ruts just because they are easy. And I hope we imagine new ways forward to continually lean into the teachings and example of Jesus.