St. Peter himself told Christians that they should “practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another” (1 Peter 4:9). Better yet, this verse comes from the Bible, which means the Holy Spirit inspired it. Just as with all the other commands we find in the Bible, we should take this seriously. We should not read it in a “do this or you will go to hell” kind of way either. This is advice from God. He is trying to nudge you toward habits and practices that will make you happy and holy.
Our culture is highly individualistic, not very family focused, and becoming less community based than ever. As a result, the idea of hospitality has fallen out of many young Americans’ minds (and older Americans too). When we invite people over to our houses, it is usually with a mind to be productive and accomplish some task. Or it is with a plan to “have fun.” Maybe our goal is to relax and connect with someone we care about.
We don’t usually think about it as giving a gift. I think this is a shame because that is exactly what hosting guests should be: a gift. Doing good works brings us closer to God by uniting us to his Son, Jesus Christ. God told us to love one another, serve one another, and to give one another good gifts. He promised us grace and treasure in heaven for doing these things. We should constantly be looking for ways to improve the lives of people around us. Hosting people at your house is a perfect opportunity to do just that.
If you have ever stayed with a talented, generous, and gracious host you will know how powerful it can be. The best hosts manage to make everyone feel relaxed and comfortable talking and being themselves. They make it clear, without even having to say it, that their guests are welcome and their host just wants them to have a good time. If this is all done well, guests leave all of their anxiety at the door. They ask for and take the things that they need, and they never have to worry about doing chores or paying money. Even if it is only a few hours for a dinner party, entering a house owned by hospitable hosts can feel like a vacation. The best visits do not feel like a theme park, busy city, tourist type of vacation. Instead they feel rejuvenating, refreshing, and encouraging.
We should try to make our guests feel like they are stepping into a safe haven. Life is hard, and if we can give our friends a peaceful spot to take a break from their daily challenges, we will be doing them a great service. This depends in part on our demeanor. We should not be over-bearing, constantly offering them things, or frequently probing them for what they would like to do. Even more importantly, we should not be stingy or impatient with them. The physical details also matter a great deal. We should make our houses clean and beautiful and comfortable. The lighting should be pleasant. The furniture should be sufficient. Everything should be tidy. There should also be plenty of food and drink. Buy your guests things you would not buy yourself: steak, wine, chocolate, etc… Figure out what their personal preferences are, and try to make things just the way they would like. Talk to them, and do not exclude people from conversation.
If you have some people over to your house, try approaching their visit in this way. Try to make their visit a gift. Give them the best, most relaxing time possible. Make them happy. Make them want to come back. Do the work without complaining, and you will find everyone better off. Hospitality is a real skill. It is an art. It has largely been forgotten, but I think it is time to remember.