While painting the walls of my son’s room, I washed a clear blue hue of the sky at dawn over layers of paint and plaster, I smiled at the idea of welcoming him into his new, big-boy room. Silly, but I thanked God for the walls that were built ten years ago, that I was painting yesterday.
These walls were set in place by the builder who laid the foundation, framed by my dad, sheet-rock hung and mud-and-taped by my husband and a few friends–all in just a few months’ time.
We were in a hurry.
We were expecting a baby. We needed more room.
So when he wasn’t at work, my husband was at work in the basement converting a cement and pine hole into a welcoming pair of rooms for our older children. This flurry of hammers and wire, plaster and carpet sought one goal: to welcome baby. A little stranger already loved into our house, into our home.
I can’t build walls. I certainly can’t build houses. But these bedroom walls heard my thanksgiving as they made their way to the heart of God. I can build a home.
I can welcome strangers. Anyone can. Everyone should.
I’ve heard it said, “Oh, you have the gift of hospitality”. Really? If someone has a well-organized party, a casserole in the oven, coordinating linens or clever wine-glass charms is she hospitable?
What is hospitality?
The Greek compound word combined felos, meaning brotherly love and, zenio which meant stranger. Be friendly to strangers.
* “Loving people” is included on most official lists of gifts of the spirit, those attributes usually defined to mean a supernatural, Holy Spirit given ability or insight used to reach the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and build up and encourage the body of Christ, which is the church.
…but is loving people, hospitality, more like fruit?
* “Loving people” is not a spiritual gift but a natural response from a person who’s life has been graced by God’s love and who is living gratefully for the salvation and hope she has received in Jesus Christ. My definition comes from 1 Peter 4:8-9:
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.
Offer hospitality (loving people) to one another without grumbling.
* “Loving people”, or practicing hospitality is a practical extension of what Jesus taught to be the Greatest Commandment, Matthew 22:37-39:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind; This is the first a greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘love your neighbor as yourself’. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
* “Loving people” is the human “how-to” to the famous “how’s come?”
Anyone who wants to love God completely is compelled to ask, “What does loving God completely look like?”
Is it piety? Is it the practice of spiritual disciplines? Is it Bible study?
Is it service? Is it monastic living? Is it stewardship?
Jesus answered: It’s loving others like you love yourself.
Simple needs always met: food, shelter, water
Comfort always sought: warmth, friendship, beauty
Pain always addressed: relief, medicine, attention
Mind always challenged: education, thought, interaction
Emotions always considered: love, familial longings, compassion
* “Loving people” simply says with honest actions and love:
It doesn’t matter who you are. What matters is that you are here.
And, this love is supernatural. It is the very same love that compelled Jesus to say to you:
It doesn’t matter who you are. What matters is that that you are here,
in my family, in my welcoming, outstretched arms.
How about you? What does loving people look like to you? Do you have any stories to share about someone who loved you–expressing that what mattered was not who you were, but that you were there?