By Nathan Peterson

Developing Your Own Brand of Hospitality (Even If You’re Not a Natural)

Maybe it’s because I’m an only child. Maybe it’s because I’m a hardcore introvert liable to break out in hives at the very mention of hosting a party. Or maybe it’s because I’m still just simply too selfish (I am trying to grow in that, really). Either way, hospitality isn’t something that comes naturally to me.

But after working on a recent project about New Student Outreach, I’ve begun to see how fundamental hospitality is within God’s DNA. And since we’re God’s kids, called to follow his example (Eph 5:1), I see how hospitality needs to be a high priority—whether that’s how we approach freshmen on campus, the new person at work, or visitors to our congregations or small groups, just like Scripture says in Hebrews 13:2. When we truly make someone feel welcome, it’s a powerful gospel witness and testimony to God’s unfailing love.

The Garden

The book of Genesis doesn’t read like Fortnite or some kind of RPG video game where Adam and Eve are dropped into a dumpster-fire-littered, zombie-infested wasteland. Instead God shows hospitality by creating a whole world for Eve and Adam to enjoy, from the infinitesimally delicate patterns of a dragonfly’s wings to extravagantly gorgeous sunsets. He places them in a garden where they could flourish and use their gifts to partner with him in cultivating the garden to its fullest potential. God didn’t have to do any of that. It paints a far more beautiful, richer picture of hospitality than I’ve ever imagined before.

The Great Commission

“Here, just let me do it!” Jesus very easily could have said that, relegating us to a corner while he spread the news of the kingdom of God across the universe within seconds. But he didn’t. He chose and invited the day’s outcasts—fishermen, tax collectors, and zealots—to spread his message of real hope, town by town, person to person.

His confidence that we could faithfully carry out his Great Commission, through his power and strength, is an incredible act of hospitality, sharing his most precious dream and fiercest passion with us.

The Father’s House

Sometimes it’s easy to let Scripture skim the surface of our hearts, to just let our eyes rove over the words without fully digesting them, like with John 14:2–3, where Jesus says,

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

When I actually slowed down to reread this passage, and when God helped this transition from something I had long known intellectually to something I felt in my heart, Jesus’ words struck me deeply.

The new heaven and earth aren’t some VIP club with angel bouncers, where only the religious elites are welcome. No, by God’s grace, we can be with Jesus. And the craziest thing is that he wants us—you and me—to be with him! Jesus wanted this so badly that he would stop at nothing to redeem and restore our relationship with him. He faced death itself to make us part of his family once more.

And he’s already excitedly preparing rooms for us. (I can almost see mine now: the most perfect collage of LeBron James, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and comic art . . . ) God willingly wants to share eternity with us, as unbroken and imperfect as we are right now, even after all the times we’ve failed him!

Tips to Develop Your Own Brand of Hospitality

Like I’ve already alluded to, I think the biggest reason why hospitality hasn’t been on my radar was the fact that I had a very limited vision of it. I didn’t know it could come in different forms or “brands.” I thought that since I’m not from a culture that’s well-known for being hospitable, I don’t have my own house to host people, and my cooking skills are abysmal, I pretty much couldn’t be hospitable.

But seeing God’s example of hospitality, I see now how much bigger it can be. It’s more of a posture than a checklist of “acceptable forms of hospitality.” So here are a few ideas to help you discern how you can develop your own brand of hospitality:

  • Remember a time when someone made you feel welcome when they didn’t have to, when you were the “new person” at campus or work or church. (I’ve had several key mentors throughout my career who just took me under their wing and went way above and beyond what their job responsibilities demanded). Then make a conscious decision to do the same for someone else, telling yourself something like: “I’m going to be hospitable to this person as God and others have been to me.”
  • Survey your gifts. Don’t tell someone you’re going to make baked Alaska for them if you can’t heat up Ramen without the fire department showing up. Use the gifts that God’s given you. And it doesn’t have to be big. Small acts of hospitality can have exponential significance.
  • Then stick to it. Whether the people you decide to serve ever acknowledge your hospitality or not. Remember that, ultimately, you’re doing it for Jesus—because of Jesus (Matt 25:31–45).

Let me just say that it’s easy to walk away from reading a post like this feeling like you have yet another task to add to your to-do list to be a good Christian, that you just need to will yourself into being more hospitable. I’ve fallen into that trap enough times to know.

But what I long to see for myself and for all of us who follow Jesus is a changed heart. Where we are so truly, deeply moved by God’s hospitality toward us that we can’t help but show it to others, like it’s a natural reflex we don’t even have to think about.

Lord Jesus, may we all look and love more like you, in small ways and big ways. May your kingdom come to our hearts and fill us with a warmth and overflowing hospitality we can’t help but share. Amen!

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Nathan Peterson is a writer on InterVarsity's Communications Team in Madison, Wisconsin. He formerly was the Urbana 18 writer. You can support his ministry at donate.intervarsity.org/donate#21293. 

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