Epiphany about Hospitality

by Wayne Stapleton
NAB VP of Racial Righteousness

When the subject of hospitality first was mentioned as the theme for the 2021 Triennial, I was unenthused. Sounds nice, I thought. But it’s not really exciting, not thick, not challenging. Hospitality is about being pleasant, inviting people to your house, offering them a beverage, right? Being hospitable feels light and fluffy.

But as we continued to talk in the ensuing months, my eyes were opened. I began reading Christine Pohl’s book Making Room and realized I missed it. My eyes were opened. Hospitality has way more gravitas than I realized.

I lament the state of our culture. There is division and hostility, racism and materialism. There is angst and woundedness that has become a platform for strife, never getting healed. People are disconnected and disaffected.

But we, the church of Jesus Christ, have the answer: true, biblical hospitality as shown to us in Christ. The ministry of reconciliation ushered in by Christ brought healing to man’s relationship with God but also to man’s relationship with man. Hospitality calls for selflessness, for empathy, for a deeper spirituality that considers material belongings to be investments for eternal things and not as ends in themselves. Biblical hospitality answers the state of our culture.

Hospitality overcomes ethnic differences and division as we value the lives, the traditions, and the stories of those not like us. We make room at the table for them and their backgrounds. We don’t hold our ethnic values higher than theirs; instead, we see how the Lord Who is God of the universe can appear in the traditions of those very much different than us. Hospitality is an expression of the torn-down dividing wall of hostility; hospitality makes possible the oneness that Christ has in mind for all who follow Him. Hospitality is the front door to shared life lived in Christ among disparate kinds of peoples.

Hospitality is the antidote to materialism. To be hospitable, we must value people more than we value things. Hospitality offers things and space and time and resources for something greater: connection and fellowship.

The biblical call to hospitality should challenge the depth of our discipleship. The most accurate picture of God’s hospitality to us is the cross of Christ. Let us not just embrace hospitality as a theological truth but actually live it. I love what I am learning about hospitality.