Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels. (Heb. 13:2)
So you’ve scrubbed and polished, cooked for days, attacked every last dust bunny and made sure that even the basement looks presentable. You are ready for company.
You are also exhausted.
Many of us believe that our house has to be up to Martha Stewart-standards in order to have company. Some of us would never make a spontaneous invitation after church: “Come on over and have coffee! We haven’t see you in months.” We end up either rarely inviting people into our homes, or we are so exhausted by the preparations we cannot enjoy the presence of friends.
St. Benedict (c. 480-c. 547), despite the fact that he was a monk (most monks take a vow of silence), knew that hospitality was an important Christian attribute. He believed this so strongly that he made it a part of the Benedictine Rule, the “guide book” if you will, of the Benedictine orders.
Keep in mind that monasteries were often safe places for travelers to stop and rest. Lay people would also visit monasteries for spiritual guidance. Even though the monastery was “home” for monks and nuns, whose primary work was prayer, the monastery frequently had visitors. The Benedictine Rule was very clear about how visitors were to be treated. They were to “be welcomed and received as Christ.” No distinctions were to be made based on wealth or status. Guests were to be invited to share in the monastic life, a rhythm of prayer, work and service.
That’s all well and good for monks, you might say, but what about me? I’ve got a job and three messy kids and a dog that sheds, and I’m not that great a cook and have you see the dust in my house? How am I supposed to be hospitable?
Jack King, an Anglican priest in Tennessee, praises what he calls “scruffy hospitality.” Like so many of us, he and his wife would say, “You know, we should have so-and-so over,” but the list of things that needed to be cleaned, prepared and cooked for that to happen meant the invitation never gets extended.
[I]viting friends into our lives when we are only ‘excellent’ isn’t friendship. Sure, there are still times we like to go all out, spruce up the house and cook a huge, Jamie Oliver style meal. It can be fun and it’s enjoyable to do things well. But that standard of excellence is rarely possible with two children under the age of 3. Friendship isn’t about always being ‘excellent’ with one another. Friendship is about preparing a space for authentic conversation. And sometimes authenticity happens when everything is a bit scruffy.
King was so convicted about this idea, he preached a sermon on it:
Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have. Scruffy hospitality means you’re more interested in quality conversation than the impression your home or lawn makes. If we only share meals with friends when we’re excellent, we aren’t truly sharing life together.
Don’t allow a to-do list disqualify you from an evening with people you’re called to love in friendship.
What we are dealing with here is pride. It is one of those oh-so-common-yet-deadly sins. We want people to be impressed. We set an impossible standard, because we don’t want to be embarrassed. Scruffy hospitality calls for a casserole, wine, music and a great big pot of humility.
Do not miss out on friendship and the making of memories because of pride. Invite folks in: into your home, into your heart and into the fellowship of Christ.