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You may not feel like you’re able to open your home to anyone. You may not feel very proud of your home anymore. You may not have the time to cook an incredible meal. And you may feel like you just don’t have time or energy to deal with more people in your house. But actually giving hospitality can create time and energy for yourself.
The more I’ve let people into our home, the more I’ve seen how great it is for our family. Joel and Lois just love playing with people who have time for them, leaving me time to get the meal together or whatever. Much as I love spending time with my children, usually when I’m with them there are a million other things to get distracted by, whereas when we invite others into our home, the different tasks can be shared out. And if one of the tasks is playing with my kids, then actually I need to remember that for a lot of people that counts as fun because the other distractions don’t exist for them. On a Monday morning, for example, I can play with my children for a little bit, but then we need to go to the supermarket, or I need to make a doctor’s appointment, or get lunch ready, or hang up the laundry. But when someone else comes round, they can give Joel and Lois some wonderfully special attention!
Also, being involved in the life of a family can be incredibly fun and enriching for those without children, just in case you were starting to wonder whether my main motive for hospitality was, in fact, free childcare. Lots of people enjoy having children in their lives; is it right to deprive them of this joy just because we’re too ashamed of our stained carpet, or the supermarket pud we’re dishing up for dessert? (And when have you ever noticed, and been properly bothered by, these things when you were at someone else’s house? Weren’t you just really, really grateful that they were giving you a meal you hadn’t had to buy or cook?)
But, more importantly, closing our door to others has some major implications for our discipleship. We are so affected by our individualistic culture that often we forget that we have a responsibility for our brothers and sisters in Christ (Hebrews 10:24-25, for example). Many of the problems we face would not seem nearly so obstructive if we knew we had the close support of others. For example, should a single Christian worry about growing old alone, or not having anyone to care for them when they need it? Of course not – and yet I need to recognise that if I’m not part of that solution then I’m effectively part of the problem. We all need the kind of close support which is outlined so many times in the New Testament. I need help raising my kids, and others need a family. I don’t believe that we can give that support merely on ‘neutral’ territory. I think it has to be given on territory which is costly to us: our own.