I'll be the first to admit I'm no domestic diva, and my husband will just as quickly second it. In the beautiful chaos that is our home, I try to have "a place for everything," but the truth is that everything is rarely in its place. One day, though, I'd had enough. I wanted to be able to sit down after dinner without the pressure of a messy house. I wanted to put my feet up and know nothing needed to be done. So I set my other work aside and devoted the entire day to tackling piles of laundry and cleaning bathrooms. I was in the middle of vacuuming the hall when my kids arrived home from school. My seven-year-old son took one look at the house, a look at me, and without missing a beat, asked, "Who's coming for dinner?"
Despite being domestically challenged, my husband and I try to cultivate an open home. We love how hospitality embodies the welcome of the gospel—how it pictures the feast and rest that awaits us in the Kingdom. And we believe Jesus when he taught that extending hospitality to others means we are extending to him. In Matthew 25:35, He says, "For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home."
But, like any other virtue, hospitality can easily become nothing more than an item on the "To Do" list of our spiritual life:
Be joyful. Check.
Be humble. Check.
Give to the poor. Check.
Be hospitable. Check.
There are many reasons this can happen, but one of the most common ones is that we misunderstand God's purposes in hospitality. We misunderstand what God intends to do, not only through us, but for us as we open our hearts and homes. We forget that hospitality is as much about our own spiritual blessing as it is about blessing others.
This truth is never clearer than in Hebrews 13:2: "Don't forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!" Instead of appealing to us to practice hospitality because of what will happen for others, the author of Hebrews encourages us to do it because of what we might receive in the process. In other words, "Be hospitable to strangers because they might just be messengers sent to you from God."
On the surface, this may seem like some kind of odd mysticism. But if you dig a bit deeper, this verse reveals a truth about how God uses hospitality to bring people together to fulfill his larger purposes. But to understand this, you first need to know something that the original audience of Hebrews knew.