Thoughts on Hospitality – a new series

I’ve been taking some notes on hospitality lately. I was going to keep them to myself, but Trey Morgan’s post this morning on welcoming a stranger into his heart was a word from God to me that I ought to share what I’m trying to learn.

I’m in the embryonic stages of trying to get people at HH interested in the spiritual discipline of hospitality. Simply put, it looks too scary for me to try it by myself, so I want to get some brothers and sisters interested in it as well. Morpheus says, “There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” I understand that difference right now. I pray that Abba will help me overcome my selfishness and insecurity.

While reading about hospitality, consider Paul’s admonition to Timothy about church leaders: among other things, they are to be given to hospitality. “Hospitable” (the currently fashionable way to translate this spot) really takes the teeth out of philoxenos – LOVER of STRANGERS. Hospitality is not a social grace but a spiritual discipline.

Thoughts on Hospitality

interpreted from Radical Hospitality – Benedict’s Way of Love

The horror of 9/11 did not create bigotry against Muslims.

Timothy McVeigh did not cause people to fear every white male.

The horror of 9/11 incited existing bigotry. It fed a silently held bigotry already alive in a dark corner of our hearts… it uncapped a quietly seething suspicion. Ever since the tree, and ESPECIALLY ever since Babel, we have been xenophobes — terrified of THE OTHER.

Fear is a thief.

Biblical hospitality is not the same kind you will learn about from Martha Stewart… not about sipping tea and making bland talk with people. Hospitality is a lively, courageous, and convivial way of living that challenges our compulsion either to turn away or to turn inward and disconnect ourselves from others.

Hospitality meets the most basic need of the human being to be known and to know others. The “big lonely” at the center of every person is universal, and it is meant to lead you somewhere.

Hospitality finds God in people. You can’t ignore people when God is looking out their eyes at you.

Love is fatiguing and costly; it comes only through effort and practice. It is not some warm and fuzzy feeling, but the strength of respect and reverence.

Hospitality is the active resistance of prejudice, suspicion, anxiety, and jealousy by the sharing of the table, the embracing of strangers, the protection of people travelling life’s roads alone.

Hospitality is about saving lives.

Hospitality acknowledges the vulnerability of being human, both my humanity and that of the stranger. To receive others is to expose myself to all sorts of frightful dangers of attachment and rejection.

The walking dead stand at the gates of our heart.

We need to become travelling spheres of solace and safety.

Hospitality is not a social grace but a spiritual discipline.

It takes a whole person to open up, a secure person to be available, a strong person to give oneself away.

Hospitality INCLUDES cooking the meal and caring for the orphan, but it DEMANDS that you let the people you are serving INTO YOUR HEART.

Do not begin by worrying about opening up your home; focus on asking God to open your heart.


A lifetime of spiritual formation will not make us welcome interruptions, look forward to disrupted plans or additional frustrations. It will not make us superhuman (which just is another way to say INHUMAN). It will, however, prevent us from ignoring the pilgrim among us. No matter what, such interruptions hold the potential for holy presence, holy encounter.

We must not be merely gracious, we must be AVAILABLE. We must open our hands and get up to our elbows in human pain. We must learn to wait while others try to make words (oh ABBA how hard this is for me). We must beg God to open within us a deep place in our hearts where others can come and go in peace and safety.

Only the brave keep the door ajar.

What we need as we take steps towards hospitality is someone to sit with us in the frightening dark until it feels more comfortable. We must not whistle in the dark. We must not pretend to be unafraid. We must not deny the inherent danghers. Acknowledging fear, facing fear, and sitting with it; this is the spiritual approach to hospitality.

We don’t become people of love until we have faced our fears.

Hospitality feels risky; only the depth of our brokenness truly MAKES it so.


About Nick Gill

orphan-poet-adoptee-soldier-prodigal-servant-husband- counselor-desperate seeker after my Father's face "I feel my body weakened by the years as people turn to gods of cruel design. Is it that they fear the pain of death, or is it that they fear the joy of life?" - Toad the Wet Sprocket

Posted on 26 September, 2008, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. The Graduate School of Theology luncheon at the ACU Lectureship had a speaker speak to us about hospitality. Interesting that you should touch on the subject two days later.

    One thing the speaker said was that the Greek word for stranger, “xenos” I think, was the same word for guest and for host. That spurred some thoughts in my cob-webbed brain. Thanks for stirring that black hole again.

    Grace and peace,

  2. “The walking dead stand at the gates of our heart.”

    Brilliant! Beautiful blog!

  3. We came across one of the walking dead a few years ago. His name was Gary and he was one of societies forgettables. He’d had most of his colon removed and was recovering in his son’s trash can of a house. I checked on Gary one evening, finding him groaning as he attempted recovery on a Lazy Boy while his son played poker across the room with friends, consumed massive amounts of beer, and chain smoked cigaretts. I somehow managed to get Gary into my car and to our house where we put him in one of our boys’ rooms to recover in peace for the next few days. We kept him clean and fed and alive. He wasn’t completely mentally stable so we kept our bedroom doors locked at night. We loved him but we were at least a little afraid of him. As you’ve pointed out, hospitality isn’t tea with the queen; it’s more likely to be an episode defined by the smelly, needy, hungry, or thirsty.

    I’ve been deeply blessed by the hospitality of others who are far more gracious than me, people who just seem gifted with the ability to make their house feel like my home.

    Finally, my family will be picnicing at the Monestary of the Holy Spirit just outside Atlanta Sunday. The guestmaster will greet us, as he does everyone, as a matter of habit. They (monks) live, not so much in disciplines but in habits that emerge as virtues. If we’re lucky we’ll get there in time to enjoy midday prayers with the brothers. Imagine living in a community which practices the habit of hospitality rather than in a community whose habits reflect hostility. Imagine.

    ben o.

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