By Stacey Kuszak
What do you think of when you hear the word hospitality? I like to watch the TV show House Hunters. Frequently on that show people look for certain features in a house that will allow them to entertain. They want a large kitchen or a garden (which I’ve gathered is a European word for backyard).
I like to entertain. In fact, my husband and I have set a New Year’s resolution for several years running that each month we will invite someone over for dinner. We try to invite friends we haven’t seen in a while or acquaintances we want to get to know better. The goal is to be intentional in our relationships. We usually make it to spring and then the busyness of life takes over and we forget our good intentions.
So when God started stirring in my heart an idea about teaching a class on hospitality, it seemed like a natural fit. I like opening my home to my friends, feeding people is my love language, and I may or may not be one of those weird people that like to take pictures occasionally of their food. Teaching a class on hospitality goes right along with my desire to be more intentional in my relationships. It seemed like a win/win . . . until I studied the Gospel of Luke.
I discovered the hospitality of Jesus was radically different from my own ideas of entertaining. Yes, I knew He ate with sinners and tax collectors. I knew He invited the outsider in and challenged the self-righteous.
What I didn’t expect to find on the pages of Luke was my own heart exposed.
You see, when Jesus sat at the table, he rarely looked at the outside–the social conventions, the who’s who, the decorations, the company, the food. He didn’t concern himself with those things. He almost exclusively looked at the inside–straight into the hearts of the people around Him. And He was quick to share with everyone what he found there.
- He told the paralytic and the sinful woman that He saw their faith.
- He told the Pharisees that He saw their pride and hostility.
- He called out the dinner guests’ need for social status and approval.
- He named the disciples’ pettiness as they argued about who would be the greatest in His kingdom.
- And He saw that His betrayer sat among them while they were breaking bread together.
Jesus says hospitality isn’t really about the outside. Hospitality is a posture of the heart. It’s a kindness of intention. The end result may be an outward action, but the beginning of hospitality starts in your soul. I wondered, is my soul kind?
As our class studied the meal time scenes in Luke, I wondered why I was suddenly feeling a strange compassion for the Pharisees. They were fervently trying to get it right, yet they failed miserably. Could it be that I, too, had misplaced intentions?
Romans 2:14 says it’s the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. Have you ever thought about that? It’s not God’s wrath or judgment or anger that leads us to want to repent of our sins. It’s his kindness. His radical hospitality towards us. When you look at the way Jesus names what was on the inside of people’s hearts, he doesn’t do it with malice or shame or meanness. He was a straight shooter and didn’t mince words, but He truly wanted people to repent and know truth. To know Him.
I have to confess my heart isn’t always kind. I can get annoyed with people just by reading posts on Facebook. I can’t imagine sitting down to dinner with someone, knowing they were about to betray me.
I had the chance last week to witness first-hand God’s kingdom hospitality. I was at my son’s Special Olympics swim practice at Southwest. After practice the team was going to surprise one of the janitors who is retiring. (School janitors are selfless, humble people. You all need to thank the next one that you see.)
The team changed out of their swimsuits and made their way to the cafeteria where they had cake and flowers waiting. Then we waited for the janitor to find her way to the cafeteria for the surprise. We waited and waited and waited. Let me just tell you, a room full of kids waiting to eat cake can be a long, tortuous thing. Finally someone went to find her. Guess where she was? In the main office . . . scrubbing toilets. She had no idea we were waiting for her. She walks around the corner wearing a cleaning mask, plastic gloves, and holding a toilet brush in her hand. The kids erupted into cheers and screams and clapping and whistling. You would’ve thought someone famous had just entered the building.
She completely lost it. She was emotionally overwhelmed as the kids came up to hug her and get their pictures taken with her. Take note. Most of these kids only see this lady once a week. She waits patiently each week for them to finish practice, and then she goes in and cleans the pool area and locker rooms. But over the course of these weekly swim practices, she has formed a bond with these kids over mutual kindness shown towards each other.
I had a feeling as I watched this scene unfold that this woman had never been honored in this way before. Her face beamed and tears ran down her face because of the radical kindness she had been shown by a group of kids with all sorts of special needs. That is what the hospitality of Jesus looks like.
God’s kingdom kindness (His hospitality) looks so different than my own. I have found myself overwhelmed at times by how different it looks. I don’t know how to begin living all he is teaching me. It feels like it could easily become a “to do” list. But I know I can’t adopt God’s hospitality just by trying harder to be nice.
Throughout scripture God’s recipe for hospitality has never changed. With His kindness He call us to himself. He invites us. Kingdom hospitality always starts with an invitation.
Ephesians 2: 12-13 says, “Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
We have been brought near to him because of his kindness and invitation.
In order to practice His radical hospitality I’ve found I must continually bring Him my heart. I need to soak in His word, to study it, to realize that I am not yet like Him. When I see my heart on the pages of Luke, I wish I could tell you it’s because I now understand this radical hospitality. I’m learning. He who calls me to repentance is kind. And because of His kindness, I can learn His ways. I can pray that my heart would reflect His.
Our world needs more hospitality. Not the kind that shows up on Instagram feeds and is a result of our try-hard lives. We need the radical kindness of Jesus.
Father God, without your Holy Spirit we will never be able to practice kingdom hospitality the way you intended. God, you want each of us to live out your radical kindness. But it starts in our hearts. May we be women who invite the sinner, the outsiders, the broken, the forgotten and even the people who disagree with us. May we make room for them at your table, in your kingdom, for your glory. Amen.