Friday, July 30, 2010

Hospitality makes you feel at home

"Be hospitable to one another without complaining." - 1 Peter 4.9.
Mi casa es su casa. Being hospitable is a core Christian practice.* Sharing a home, whether for a meal for a night or for longer is a way of using our blessings to bless others. But something that has struck me over the last few years is that the blessing runs both ways. I don't simply mean that you might receive hospitality in return (that is never the goal), or even that you might have a good conversation or make a new friend, though these are frequently true. Instead, my wife and I have discovered that one of the blessings of sharing our place is that the very act of sharing makes us feel more at home. Put another way, a place only becomes our home when we share it with others.

I heard a statistic a few years ago that I now can't source, but I think was a newspaper report of a study done in Australia. It had been found that the average Australian only has six people into their home each year (including family). Are you missing out on receiving blessings by not sharing more?

That said, this instruction in 1 Peter assumes that complaining is commonly associated with the offering of hospitality. Opening your home takes time, effort and sometimes involves some extra costs. It will not always feel like a blessing. Indeed, frequently, it is not something from which you will gain any immediate reward at all.
[Jesus] said also to the one who had invited him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." - Luke 14.12-14.
*It is probably worth drawing a distinction between hospitality and entertaining. The former is sharing your home life with others (including strangers!); the latter is aiming to impress friends or contacts with a life that is not really yours. Being hospitable doesn't necessarily mean cooking a multi-course gourmet meal or offering a five star hotel bed. And while taking people out to dinner can be a lovely thing to do, I'm not sure that it counts as hospitality.

Having written this post, I've just discovered that Jeremy has written an even better post about hospitality, so let me invite you over to his place for a rich meal of thoughts.


Andrew said...

'Being hospitable doesn't necessarily mean cooking a multi-course gourmet meal or offering a five star hotel bed.'

No harm in trying though ... see you on the 15th!

More seriously though, your point that 'a place only becomes our home when we share it with others' interests me because it seems that to grapple with our understandings of place and location inevitably involves posing the question of living together in a very particular way. That is, by opening up a place we regard as home - and which is therefore somehow related to our own identity in the world - to others we openly entertain negotiation and implication with others as a part of our identity. This is a way of learning how to love our neighbour and reminds us that we are always already 'home' in that we belong to the place we are in and yet are also 'homeless' as sojourners on the earth ...

byron smith said...

Yes, see you on the 15th for your five star hotel room, which also happens to be our kitchen, study, living room, dining room, laundry and balcony...

But great point about opening our identities to others through opening our spaces to others. And the dynamic of being at home while being aliens and strangers is an important one lest we either collapse into utopian dreams or escapist fantasies.

Mike W said...

thanks Byron, just writing an issues paper on hospitality right now. : ).

byron smith said...

Great! I hope you'll post it (or at least highlights) on your blog. Unless you have grander plans for it somewhere?

Mike W said... grandest plan is to get it finished

byron smith said...

Dave Roberts: A very interesting series on place. That is just the first post. There is a whole rich theme far too complex to have any justice done in a blog post or two, but I realise I have not written nearly enough about "place" theologically or ecologically.