- May 01, 2018
- Meg Rodriguez
Most of us know what it feels like to play the role of host or hostess. Whether for a weekend dinner, a work event, a bridal shower, or a birthday party, it can be an overwhelming task to welcome others into our home and space with open arms. If you’re anything like me, you might be tempted to obsess over perfection—by making sure that every inch of the house is cleaned, that the perfect menu is planned, and that the decor is right before you would dare think about letting anyone inside.
This is likely what comes to mind for many of us when we think about the idea of hospitality. In order to be hospitable to others—to be gracious hosts—we must extend our very best to whomever we invite to walk through those doors. However, in light of what the gospel tells us about hospitality, I think that many of us, myself included, have it quite wrong.
In the six months since I’ve been married, I have experienced for the first time the joy and challenge of being responsible for a household and welcoming others into it. I have always shown perfectionist tendencies, so it is no surprise that the same struggle would emerge when I shift into hostess mode. I have easily spent unnecessary hours cleaning and perfecting a meal, only to be exhausted when family or friends finally show up at the door. Is this really the hospitality to which we are called? Overworking ourselves just to impress?
As I have grappled with these ideas, I continue to be amazed by stories of hospitality in Scripture and humbled by how much I have to learn. Let’s take this well-known story from Luke 10 as an example.
“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:38-42).
I am undoubtedly the Martha of this story. I worry and plan and cook and clean enough as it is when friends are coming over—if the Messiah were coming into my house, you better believe I would be just as anxious as Martha about making sure that everything felt perfect.
But, as Jesus reminds Martha, this is not at all what hospitality is about. Here, in this passage, hospitality is about slowing down. It is about sitting, letting the tasks go, and basking in the Lord. What does that look like in our own lives? To be truly hospitable, we open our doors no matter how clean the house is, and no matter how dinner might turn out. We are hospitable when we welcome others in, even when that means welcoming them into our ordinary, everyday mess, for the sake of slowing down, serving, cultivating relationships, and enjoying life with them.
Now, you might be thinking—I enjoy cooking, cleaning, and serving others by putting on a good party. What’s wrong with that?
Nothing. We are always called to serve others, to show graciousness and care to those who come through our doors, and sometimes we express this by putting on a good party. The problem arises when the motivation behind our hospitality becomes not just humble service but an image of perfection, the desire to impress, or the flourishing of our own reputation. This is where sin creeps into our hospitality. Martha was so concerned about planning the perfect visit that she missed Jesus. This is the same danger that we face.
As we consider what the gospel has to tell us, may we be challenged to redefine how we serve others. May we open our doors more freely. And may we rest in this gospel hospitality as we welcome others in—even into our mess.