Our house was always open. People were always in and out. Chunks of concrete from our tropical storm-ravaged roof were always falling.
We were young. We had children and were adopting another. It was hot. Large bugs and even larger lizards lived right alongside us. Among those insects and reptiles, we were learning how to make disciples.
It was chaos. It was sacred.
When I was twenty-five, my husband and I packed up our six-month-old baby girl and two 50-pound suitcases and moved to Okinawa, Japan. We went as missionaries to the American military stationed there.
Our job was to live in a large home right outside the base and welcome in-service members and their families for meals, holidays, game nights, and Bible studies.
Every Friday, a handful of military wives and I cooked dinner for a hundred and my husband preached. The Holy Spirit moved. People got saved. Marriages were mended. Men and women walked with Jesus like they never had before.
BIG, EMPTY HOMES
We moved back to the States two years ago. People in our neighborhood come home at night and pull into their garage, close the door, and disappear inside. Many of us see our homes as our refuge; our oasis; our fortress of solitude.
Rather than opening and sharing our homes, the current American Dream is that each family member has his or her own room, their own screen, and their own bathroom. The typical American home built in the 1950s was 1,700 square feet, while in 2017 it was 2,600 square feet. Our homes are larger and nicer—but there is less life within.
We know this solitary way of living isn’t good for us. Research shows that my own hometown of Denver is among the loneliest places to live. People are moving here in droves—by the hundreds of thousands every year. Transplants want the outdoor lifestyle, the great weather, the young and active population, the hip places to eat, work, and play.
But they get here, move into their homes, and find not a place of belonging, but of loneliness. My trendy city is one of the loneliest places in America; Denver residents report feeling relationally empty and lacking purpose.
MADE FOR COMMUNITY, CALLED TO HOSPITALITY
This is not the way it’s supposed to be. God created us for community. His grand plan since the first days of creation was that we humans would commune with him and with one another. The Lord made a home in the Garden of Eden—a place of hospitality, where his people could gather and be satisfied. When Adam was alone, God said it wasn’t good (Gen. 2:18). He made Eve and told the new couple to multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 1:28).
Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we see the Lord calling his people to welcome in the foreigner, the stranger, the neighbor, the brother and sister in Christ (Lev. 19:34; Deut. 10:19; Matt. 25:34-36; Mark 12:31; Heb. 13:2). Our God is a welcomer. Loneliness is not his will—it’s not his nature. Christ-followers have been commanded to gather in their homes to share meals and conversation. When we welcome others into our homes for a meal, we are modeling what life was like when our God welcomed us into his dwelling and we ate and were satisfied, communing together with one another.
Paul says, “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (Rom. 12:13). Peter says to do so without grumbling (1 Pet. 4:9). The church models its welcoming Lord by being hospitable. Hospitality is of such importance that church elders “must be hospitable” (Titus 1:8). God lays upon church leaders the need to live open-handedly with their homes and resources.
We’re all called to do it, so why don’t we?
We think our house isn’t big enough, our kids are too crazy, we don’t know how to cook, people don’t do that anymore; it’s weird, they’ll think we’re selling something. Or maybe we think it sounds too simple. We’re looking for a professional way of doing hospitality; for the latest three-point strategy to love our neighbors and get them saved.
But all of this misses the point.
SHARING THE GOSPEL—AND OUR LIVES
Back in Okinawa, the missionary who lived in the “Hospitality House“ before us hand-painted a sign that hung in the main gathering space. The sign read, “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well” (1 Thess. 2:8, NIV).
Sharing the gospel results in sharing life. The gospel compels us to love our Lord so much that we can’t help but see others the way he does. And if we love others, we’ll share not only our faith with them—but our lives as well.
May it not be said of us who live in big, empty homes that we don’t love enough! May it not be said of us who dwell in solitary apartments that we don’t actually believe God when he says hospitality is important! May it not be said of any of us that we don’t resemble Jesus in the way we use our home.
Jesus—“who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:6-7)—is the ultimate welcomer, the preeminent host who left heaven, walked with us, and invited us to sit at the table with his Father. It was Jesus the Thessalonians were emulating when they shared the gospel and their lives. It was Jesus who loved us so much that he was delighted to share with us not only the gospel of God, but also his life and death and resurrection!
As Christ followers, may we be like Jesus. May we be like the Thessalonians. May we love those around us so much that we share not only the gospel of God, but our lives—including our homes—as well. May we lay down our lives, lay down our personal space, lay down our homes, lay down our kids‘ playroom, lay down our quiet nights on the couch, and invite others inside.
There is power in hospitality. It works. My heart fills with joy when I think of the many young men who ate dinner with us, who were drawn to Christ through us, who couldn’t resist the powerful grace of him who sent us. My inbox is filled daily with updates from women who once were lost, but now are found because of time spent around our dinner table; women whose marriages were ravaged but are now whole; women who pondered abortion but then chose life; women who had walked without Jesus for years but are now raising their kids in him!
If hospitality works on a far-off island in a crumbling concrete home, amongst lizards and young adults who don’t really know how to cook yet, I assure you God will work through hospitality right where you live.
Who lives on your street or in your building or in your dorm that would be blessed by an invitation for coffee-and-donuts at your table this Saturday morning? Who could you share lunch with at work? Is there a family your kid plays soccer with that might enjoy hot dogs on your grill after practice? How about asking that new single at church to lunch this Sunday?
Hospitality isn’t flashy. People can be loved well in the ordinary chaos of life. It simply requires laying down your life and inviting others in. It’s what Jesus did, and it’s what he’s asking—and empowering—us to do, right where we live.
Jen Oshman is a wife and mom to four daughters and has served as a missionary for 17 years on three continents. She currently resides in Colorado where she and her husband serve with Pioneers International, and she encourages her church-planting husband at Redemption Parker. Her passion is leading women to a deeper faith and fostering a biblical worldview. She writes at www.jenoshman.com.