Is there anything more comforting and hopeful than experiencing warm and genuine hospitality–that you are truly welcome, cared for, ‘it’s good to see you’, open hands offering what you need? Is there anything more gracious than a generous person who doesn’t want any recognition or anything in return?
Hospitality and generosity are key characteristics of Christian disciples. Jesus’ whole life was about both. He welcomed all. He cared for all. He gave of himself, his gifts, his wisdom, his teaching and eventually even his life.
In the earliest days of monasteries, their key ministries were of hospitality and generosity. Doors were open to travellers, to anyone in need, and it was in the monastery that the first hospitals (see the connection) were seen. The wanderer, the sick, the needy–all were welcomed.
Pretty much every church has “Welcome” on their sign.
But let’s be honest when we say that not everyone has experienced “Welcome” in every church; they have not experienced hospitality. A lot of “welcomes” are conditional. A lot of apparent generosity is so tied up in strings it can strangle.
Hospitality and generosity, like God’s love, are unconditional. They are also intimately connected to the discipleship gift of gratitude. Gratitude reminds us that everything comes from God and belongs to God. If that has seeped into our spiritual bones, hospitality and generosity can follow. If we are not worried about losing something or someone having what we do not or taking what we have, we are free to welcome them, care for them, share with them. If we are freed from believing we only have what we deserve and we have gained it from our own efforts, we are free to be generous without strings and conditions.
Because gifts are for giving.
Hospitality and generosity are not only about stuff and things. There is also the hospitality and generosity of the spirit. When we are afraid, anxious, feeling unworthy, weighed down by all the hard and painful things that life may have laid on us, it is difficult to be generous in spirit to others–to trust them, expect the best, be willing to forgive, to give them the benefit of the doubt. It can be difficult to warmly welcome others into our lives.
First and foremost, we need to accept the boundless generosity and hospitality of our Creator as we have seen it in Jesus. Practise believing it. Practise telling yourself that you are worthy and wonderful and free, because, in Christ, God has said you are. Find people in your life who have this grace and experience what it looks and feels like. Look for open and gracious acts of hospitality and generosity. And here might be the most difficult task of all: when someone extends hospitality to you, when someone is generous to you–receive it, embrace it, savour it. Let it nurture those qualities in you, like food and drink for the soul.
Practise it: open hands; open hearts; open spirits. Risk it. Take the chance. You might experience a freedom and grace deeper than you could have imagined.
Featured Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.com