The Apostles Paul and Peter exhort us believers to make hospitality a normal practice of life.  “Share with God’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:13).  “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9).

Interestingly, the Greek word for hospitality literally means, “love of strangers or guests.”  The book of III John is a thank you letter from the Apostle John to his dear friend and Christian brother, Gaius.  John thanks Gaius for showing hospitality to strangers in need – traveling missionaries who needed help.

Hospitality gets confused with entertainment.  Karen Mains made the following differentiation between hospitality and entertainment in her book, Open Heart, Open Home.

Entertaining says, “I want to impress you with my home, my clever decorating, my cooking.”

Hospitality, seeking to minister, says, “This home, this apartment, is a gift from my Master.  I use it as He desires.” Hospitality aims to serve.

Entertaining puts things before people.  “As soon as I get the house finished, the living room decorated, my housecleaning done – then I will start inviting people.”

Hospitality puts people first.  “No furniture – we’ll eat on the floor!”  “The decorating may never get done – you come anyway.”  “The house is a mess – but you are friends – come home with us.”

Entertaining subtly declares, “This home is mine, an expression of my personality.  Look, please, and admire.”

Hospitality whispers, “What is mine is yours.”

Practicing hospitality puts people before things with the motivation, “I don’t want to impress you but I want to serve you.”  Entertaining puts things before people with the underlying message, “I want to impress you with my beautiful home, clever decorating, and my gourmet cooking.”

With the focus on the guests, hospitality does everything with no thought of reward, but takes pleasure in the joy of giving, doing, loving, serving.  With the focus on the hosts, entertaining looks for payment; words of praise, return invitation, esteem in eyes of friends and neighbors.

With the confusion between hospitality and entertainment, it’s easy to see what a burden entertaining can be.   On the other hand, there is great freedom in inviting folks over to experience life as you normally live it. It’s real; it’s relaxed; it’s liberating.  “Come on over & eat dinner with us. We were planning on Beanie Weenies and Mac ‘n Cheese. We have plenty for everyone.”

To whom can you practice hospitality?  What are the ways you can imagine us showing hospitality – “love of strangers and guests” – at WCPC… at work… in your neighborhood?