Jump directly to the Content

Someone's Knocking at the Door

With my husband's sense of hospitality, it could be a complete stranger

As I set a beautiful table and prepared to serve the perfect meal, my husband asked, "Is there anything I can help you with?"

"Could you get the water glasses for me?" I responded. But I forgot that John and I speak two different languages when it comes to hospitality and entertaining. To me a "water glass" means a cobalt blue goblet to match the blue and white place settings. To my husband, it means a plastic cup from a fast-food restaurant—the kind he gulps water from after mowing the yard on a hot afternoon.

We don't always see eye-to-eye on whether to use candles and a lace tablecloth or paper plates and the picnic table. But I have to admit, John's approach to hospitality is closer to its true meaning than my cosmetic attempts to look hospitable. In fact, all I really need to know about hospitality I've learned from my husband.

Lesson #1: An invitation to eat is never inappropriate. One Sunday morning, while we were hurrying to get ready for church, our neighbor Jim came to the door with a beer in his hand. He asked if he could borrow our wheelbarrow.

Without giving it a second thought, John said, "Sure, but how about some breakfast first?" So he scrambled eggs and buttered four slices of toast for Jim to wash down with the beer. While our neighbor finished breakfast, John got the wheelbarrow and pushed it across the street. That kind of hospitality enabled my husband to build a relationship with Jim that has led to discussions about why John goes to church on Sunday rather than staying home to watch football or do yard work.

Lesson #2: No one is a stranger after you say "hi." John befriends every person who crosses his path. I kid him about it because he once brought complete strangers into our house to show them exactly how pregnant I was. "There she is," he announced, pointing at me as if I were a beached whale. They nodded and smiled as if to say, "Yes, I see what you mean."

I confess, welcoming anyone into my home, especially strangers, is one of my greatest challenges. My heart rate increases when there's an unexpected knock at the door. And if my husband calls to say he's bringing someone home for dinner, I approach panic-attack mode. But I'm learning that hospitality doesn't have to revolve around a gala event. In fact, friendliness has much to do with a hospitable heart. It's a symbolic act of "leaving the door open" to other visits and deeper conversations.

Lesson #3: Everyone has worth. With a car in the repair shop, I picked John up at his office. As we inched along toward the freeway, a homeless man in a dirty blue overcoat approached the car to peddle his newspapers. Naturally, John rolled down the window. I nervously eyed the traffic light hoping it would turn green. No such luck. John smiled, handed the man a couple of dollars and took his paper.

Then he stuck his hand out and said, "Hi, my name is John. I've seen you on this corner a lot."

The man shook John's hand and said, "Nice to meet ya'. I've seen you around, too. My name's Kelly." The light turned green, John waved goodbye and it seemed Kelly walked a bit taller knowing someone found him worthy of a handshake.

Lesson #4: Follow Jesus' lead. As I've learned the finer points of true hospitality from my husband, I realize my definition is too narrow. Don't get me wrong. There's nothing more satisfying than sipping coffee and nibbling dessert in my home with friends. That's the easy part. But I have a feeling that Jesus wasn't as selective as I am when he welcomed people into his life.

I can think of several people he greeted with open arms—people I would have stiff-armed rather than embraced. I'm not sure I would have been as welcoming to that little schemer, Zacchaeus. And I would have eyed with suspicion an obnoxious old man like blind Bartimaeus. "Probably a drunk wanting money," I may have scoffed.

To be brutally honest, my hospitality usually revolves around me. In the past I've entertained friends in large part for my enjoyment and comfort rather than understanding Christ's desire to meet their needs in my home. Maybe that's why the word "hospitality" shares the same root as hospital. Real hospitality cares for others, helping them feel better just because they feel welcomed and loved.

My husband's open heart to both the world and to Jesus has allowed many, including me, to see Christ in our home. Some don't yet know it's Jesus they've seen, but many have asked, "What makes you so different?" I know what it is. John has learned to love other people regardless of who they are, how they look or whether they drink beer on Sunday morning. He knows that true hospitality, Jesus-style, isn't narrowly defined by friendship and comfort, planned dinners and concocted parties.

Hospitality happens when I grasp the truth that Jesus personally welcomes me to his table "while I'm yet a sinner." And with a hospitable love like that, no one minds if the plastic water glasses don't match the china.

Marsha Crockett is a freelance writer who lives with her gregarious husband, John, in Chandler, Arizona.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Free CT Women Newsletter

Sign up for our Weekly newsletter: CT's weekly newsletter to help you make sense of how faith and family intersect with the world.

Read These Next

  • Out of Control
    Don't let tough times rob you of joy
  • Too Busy for His Health?
    When serious health issues threatened their marriage, Roy and Nancy Gibbs had to discover what was truly important.
  • Uncoupled in a Coupled-Up World
    Life after divorce is lonely—even when you’ve got Jesus.


Join in the conversation on Facebook or Twitter

Follow Us

More Newsletters