Hospitality is really all about other people. It’s not primarily about the food we serve when guests come to our home. It is more about our heart for others and the way we allow others to be lavished with grace and accepted and known. It is about helping them feel refreshed after having been with us.
When we are in relationship with other people, the main way we communicate lavish hospitality is by the words we speak. We offer refreshment to people by not only offering them food or drink, or a guest room, or pretty flowers in a vase, or bottles of soap in a bathroom. We offer them refreshment by lavishing words of grace to them.
I’m not talking about puffing them up or exalting what they’ve done, at least not necessarily. I mean listening without judgment. Answering them with kindness and grace. If correction is needed, then doing so with grace and empathy and humility. I’m talking about not always having an answer but maybe just listening with tear-filled eyes to the hurt or pain someone is experiencing.
I’ve learned in marriage that it is more often the little things I say (and how they are said) that cause the most damage. As a Mom, it’s usually when I am tired and not feeling like I’m in charge that the anger comes out and I am tempted to lash out at my children. Usually with friendships and relationships, I’m more in control of when and how these things happen and I can back out of the situation to regroup, but I’ve learned so much over the years about how my words (and other’s words) can affect our ability to love well.
I can think of three specific relationships in my life as an adult that were totally broken by words. One was letting a misunderstanding get in the way and cause years of silence. One was silence instead of fighting for a friendship. One was condemnation and has just been healed to the point of being able to talk every now and then.
So, here’s what I can do…I can either continue to let those relationships be broken, or I can extend lavish grace and hospitality into these situations. When we allow ourselves to be used by God to extend grace to others, we become his conduits in their lives–conduits of hospitality, grace, reconciliation, love, and acceptance.
One passage of Scripture that I see this the most in is John 21. They are at the end of Jesus’ time on earth. He has conquered the grave. He is revealing more of His love and character to the disciples. Some of the disciples were fisherman (of fish) before Jesus called them to be fishers of men. Jesus, the Lord, took some bread and the fish they had caught and was serving them.
He then turned to Peter for a conversation that would change Peter’s life. But, what I find so winsome about this interaction that is recorded in the Word for us is that Jesus talked with Peter. I’m sure Peter was still embarrassed and ashamed of his denial of Christ before Jesus died. I would be. Jesus doesn’t ignore Peter or “guilt” him into following Him, or heap condemnation on his head. Rather, He talks with him. Jesus asks questions to get to Peter’s heart.
Oh, how we need to learn to be more like Jesus! When Jesus turned and talked to Peter, He broke down days of bitterness and condemnation in Peter’s heart. Jesus healed a relationship with just one conversation. Peter would go on to be a foundation of the new Church.
A phrase I have written in my Bible with this particular chapter is “He loves us past our failures.” Often we allow either our failures or the failures of others to end a relationship. Here, Jesus takes Peter’s failure, moves right past it, and commissions him to keep loving others with the Gospel. Jesus doesn’t allow Peter’s failures to stop him from serving in the kingdom. Jesus doesn’t pass over Peter and just choose another disciple. He doesn’t make Peter sit this one out, because he has messed up.
Christ took Peter’s failure and pushes him past it. He lets Peter know that Hehas moved past it. This one conversation of healing and restoration set the groundwork for Peter’s future work with the Gentiles. Jesus doesn’t ignore Peter, skip him in the breakfast line, or reject him. Jesus gives Peter a new and great task. His words were restorative to Peter and would propel him to greater ministry in the last decades of his life.
How powerful our words can be to heal failures and feelings of condemnation, to usher in new freedom and give life, to welcome people back into our lives where pain once separated us. Jesus is our ultimate example as Reconciler. He brings peace where there was only animosity. Let’s allow His example to encourage us to be reconciled with others and lavish hospitality upon them.
War of Words is a helpful book by Paul Tripp that talks about using our words to communicate the Gospel. As we invest in those around us, take stock of our relationships, and use our mouths to be instruments of grace, let us first look to our role as reconcilers – not as those who destroy.
If we are married, let us be a reconciler with our spouse. When we are sinned against, let us be the first to turn and seek reconciliation. If we are mothers, let us offer hugs and kisses and reconciliation to our children even when they’ve messed up. Not glossing over their sin, but meeting them with grace and humility. With our friends, when hurt comes (and believe me, it will), let us be the first to forgive and strive for unity. Let us love well, overlooking offense, and welcoming them back into our lives.
Hospitality can look like sweet tea and warm chocolate chip cookies, vases of flowers and rocking chairs on front porches, but I’ve learned that those are just the bonuses. Those are the additions in His lavish grace. The restored relationships are the main point. Then, I can sit down in those rocking chairs with a mason jar of sweet tea and have sweet conversation. And look forward to the day when all relationships will be made perfectly new around the King’s lavish table.
©2018 Women of Warren, Warren Baptist Church