What if one of your neighbors randomly put a bright, lime green picnic table in their front yard that stuck out like a sore thumb? Would you notice? Of course!
Rosaria Butterfield, author of The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, did just that on her family’s front yard in North Carolina. You see, the green table is known as the local meeting point for prayer. Once every week, anyone is welcome to meet at the famous “green table” for a neighborhood prayer walk. The group goes through the neighborhood and prays for local needs, as well as for any requests that strangers, or “non-praying” people will share with the group as they walk.
Afterwards, they gather for a meal and people from the entire neighborhood mingle further. Rosaria says the size of the core group has fluctuated, but the simple act of prayer walking and sharing meals has enabled her family to use their home as a means for reaching out to her neighbors.
I use her story as an example because hospitality is something I’ve desired to cultivate in my own life, even though I’ve never had a place of my own.We’ll do a two-part series here that talks about how anyone can practice hospitality – even if you don’t have your own place!
My Heart Be Like: Boom, Boom
Here’s where it gets exciting: on one level, hospitality is having people over for dinner. It is that intentional generosity which lets a guest use the extra bed for the weekend. On a deeper level, it’s an attitude of the heart that displays itself as a lifestyle. It’s the view that everything you own ultimately belongs to the Lord, and expressing the desire to welcome others, even strangers, into tasting and seeing that God is good (Hebrews 13:2; Psalm 34:8).
If hospitality is really an attitude of the heart in its purest state, it means it can be exercised by anyone, even if you don’t rent or own your own place! Someone’s very presence, their attitude, can express hospitality through being inviting to others. People that don’t know God can become curious about the generosity of soul they sense in you, and the peace in your life (even if you don’t feel “peaceful”); other Christians can be fed, both physically and spiritually, through the Holy Spirit being at home within you (John 14:23). Isn’t that exciting? Your very life can be an invitation to others! You can practice hospitality right now – no matter what your physical living situation is!
Not Having It All Together
Flip through the pages of Real Simple, House Beautiful, or any other home magazine, and you will come across glossy pics of tables meticulously set for entertainment. However, opening up your life does not require this kind of perfection, either from you or your table. The windows do not have to be spotlessly scrubbed and every child’s toy put away in order for you to have guests over. The same is true for opening up your life within the act of opening the front door; you don’t need to brush every weakness or flaw of yours underneath the rug.
People often benefit from hearing how we are working through a struggle as opposed to only showing your best, “godly” side. When someone watches you go through a trial, and sees how you still have peace or hope amidst the struggle, it makes Him more appealing. The same idea is true for the physical state of our living space; you don’t need the fanciest meal, decorations, or table settings to be a visible means of grace to a hurting world.
Have You Heard the News?
One of the most powerful ways for hospitality to be used is in evangelism. When we invite people into our lives (or homes) who are not saved, we are letting them see that Christians are just normal people who don’t only speak ‘Christianese’. When we make ourselves vulnerable (with discretion), we are saying we are open to relationships. We are letting them see that our lives are not polished, edited social media photos, and to instead invite them to see how God works within our lives.
When the casserole is slightly burned, but we still express uninhibited delight in the presence of non-Christians at our table, simply because they are people, then powerful things can happen. Even if nothing happens in such conversations from what we can discern, we are planting seeds of truth that may produce results later on in someone’s life. In the end, the door of your home can be a place where people see the Gospel played out in the generosity of hospitality, whether you use a lime green picnic table or not!
If you would like to listen to Rosaria’s experience with her neighborhood’s green table, you can listen to the podcast here through the ministry of Revive Our Hearts.
Please Share: What is one of the most memorable acts of hospitality that you have received or given?
Sunshine is a teacher living in the East Bay of California. She has traveled to Ethiopia, Cambodia, Ireland, England, Indonesia, the Philippines, and the Darien Jungle in Panama. Sunshine enjoys discipleship at her church and makes a mean tortilla soup.