Would You Let a Stranger Live with You? Laying Aside the Fear of Hospitality
“I could never have strangers live with us!”
I can’t tell you how many times people have said that to my husband and me. I feel awkward when I hear that sentiment because I know full well that they could have strangers live with them. I know this because I am just as selfish, fearful, or particular as they may be. I don’t like toothpaste globs in my sink, waiting to use the washing machine, or sharing kitchen space with a sloppy cook just as much as the next gal.
But hospitality uniquely changed my husband’s life when he was a teenager, and so I came to realize that I am far more capable of overcoming my selfish objections than I realized.
When my husband was eighteen years old, a young married couple from his church invited him to live with them and their baby daughter. For the first time in his life, he witnessed a home and a family that was centered on Christ. When we got married, we wanted to provide the same opportunity for others. So, within a couple months of our wedding, we opened our home to the first of many precious people. (And let’s keep it real — some not-so-precious ones too.)
With or Without Faith?
For me, hospitality used to conjure up visions of a Pottery Barn–decorated dinner table, with all my dearest friends gathered around for a delicious meal. But God wrecked that — in the most beautiful way.
We can be funny when it comes to hospitality. By default, we assume that opening our homes has to be a safe bet. We want to make logical decisions with a proper cost-benefit analysis. But Scripture says,
Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
Like everything that we do for Christ, true hospitality involves faith. Many times, we have welcomed people in and seen beautiful, tangible results. They have grown and changed and met their goals. But can I tell you that there have also been many times when we have seen little to no growth — times of rejection that have been deeply painful.
But nothing is wasted by God. We may start out trying to counsel and encourage and help others, but God ends up counseling and encouraging and helping us. I think we often forget that God is concerned with our hearts! “This is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Isn’t that the most beautifully simple verse? Yet we forget this simple but profound truth. The goal of hospitality is not to leave us warm and fuzzy inside, but to leave us looking more and more like Jesus. Remember his example?
Sadly, it seems, many in our Christian community would not want Jesus to stay at their house with the sinners and outcasts that he brought along. He was often defending himself against the “religious” folks that wanted nothing to do with that crowd. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners,” he said (Mark 2:17). And so we invite the sinners in.
“Your Reward Will Be Great”
Just the other night, my husband and I were talking to our kids about a difficult hospitality decision that would affect all of us. We reminded them that we have to start with the question, “Is this something that God is calling us as a family to do?” Because if the answer is yes, it doesn’t really matter if we initially feel like doing it or not.
Some would say we are asking our kids to give up more than they should — that we are supposed to put their needs above everyone else’s. I know how deep the desire can be to cater to our children and to cringe at the thought of their discomfort. I have had to fight against the temptation to protect them from suffering. True hospitality often requires sacrifice, inconvenience, and surrender. And God does not require less from them. I am witness that you can prayerfully make decisions with wisdom, while still moving forward in faith.
Jesus’s words in Luke 6:33–36 have always struck me:
“If you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
As with everything in our lives, we have the opportunity to use our homes in a way that doesn’t make sense to the world. If all the good you do in your home is for your friends and family, how is that different from every other person on your street? There’s no benefit — to you or to your children, but also to a world that desperately needs to see us doing things differently.
More Blessed to Give
Let’s ask ourselves a few questions: Why do we start with fear rather than faith? Why do our first thoughts revolve around us instead of others? Why do we listen to the voices around us rather than lean in to hear the voice of God, guiding us in his word and by his Spirit?
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2). From the perspective of eternity, who cares if our couches get ruined, or if that single mom’s child draws on our perfectly painted walls? Can I let you in on a Chan family secret? Buy used things and accept hand-me-downs, because the freedom from worrying about your possessions is incredibly life-giving.
And if you are standing at the deep end (so to speak) of hospitality, working up the courage to dive in, let me tell you this: as we have opened up our hearts and our home to others, what we have received faroutweighs the sacrifice and surrender.