Biblical Hospitality From Her Bed
Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Rom. 15:7).
…as Christ has welcomed you.
In her book, Table Life: Saving the Hospitality of Jesus in your Home, author Joanne Thompson says “opening up your home is “faith expressing itself in love.”
I love that. Hospitality is faith expressing itself in love.
God gave my mother the gift of hospitality. And my mother taught me how to use that gift every day of her life.
She welcomed people into our home as Christ had welcomed her: a sinner redeemed by her Savior. She welcomed everyone. She served humbly. She loved well, and she loved without pretense.
Her kitchen was only as wide as her arm span, but oh how she used that kitchen for God’s glory. I remember her taking out that special pie dish and filling that homemade pie crust with apples and delivering it to a woman who lost her second half. I remember the times she opened our home to hurting women and gave their children a place to stay. I remember her mentoring young women at the same breakfast table where she had mentored me and my sister, and I remember when she would take my sister and me to visit Miss Mary. We would take snacks and just “stop by to say hi.” I remember the cards that she would slip into my lunch bag or purse to encourage my heart and tell me something God was showing her about Himself.
I remember the way she kept our home full of life and joy and peace and love and warmth and love. That’s just who my mom was. She wasn’t about perfection. But she sure cherished people.
And every person that crossed the threshold of our home was met with that same love: God’s love perfected in her, all for the glory of God.
Because hospitality was all about relationships for her. Rather, a relationship. Scratch that. Hospitality was about the only relationship that ever mattered: our relationships with Jesus Christ.
She served and welcomed and invited others into her heart and home to welcome and invite them to know the One and Only God who could welcome them wholly, completely, and perfectly for all time. Their past stories, their present baggage, and their undetermined futures never deterred her.
So I also vividly remember the day when she couldn’t do that anymore, or so it seemed. As she became bed-ridden because of a terminal illness, she lost the ability to speak and her muscles atrophied. She couldn’t physically open the front door. She couldn’t fold the apples in over the dough, or pick up takeout for an expectant mom. She couldn’t sit at the kitchen table with a struggling young mom and hold her hands and share God’s truth with her. She couldn’t pen the note to the grieving widow. She was left communicating by typing words into a speaking computer app.
And she grieved. Oh how she grieved that loss. Hospitality wasn’t just a spiritual gift. She understood it was a command to all believers (Rom. 12:13).
She made a decision not to let her illness stop her from showing God’s love. She determined that until the Lord took her home she was going to use her gift of hospitality for Him.
And so she made lists. Lots of lists. Lists on who I needed to call and check on and cards I needed to write on her behalf and – oh, did dad have enough cookies to last him for the week? She reminded me to visit Miss Mary and take her tea and just “stop by because I was in the neighborhood.”
And for the next two and a half years, she served God from her bed. She welcomed a woman who was paralyzed by addiction and didn’t want to believe Christ loved her to sit and talk with a woman physically paralyzed but who knew the deep canyons of God’s love. And she invited women going through hard, messy things into her room, to sit by her hospital bed, and pray with them. She encouraged through social media. And in each of those encounters, she shared the gospel of Jesus Christ.
And while she had to release most of her mentorship relationships, she kept one, a twentysomething woman. Something inside me knew that she was still teaching them something even if she wasn’t meeting with them in person. She was still teaching me. She was still teaching all of us.
She couldn’t physically use her gift of hospitality, but the heart of hospitality was more beautiful than ever before. I’m so thankful for the privilege to have gotten a first row seat to that, to have been on the receiving end of that kind of heart and hospitality. My mom was one who welcomed for the sole reason of creating an opportunity to say, “Let me tell you about who my God is, and let me tell you about what He’s doing in my life, and what he can do for you, too.”
She taught me that no matter the cost, no matter the circumstance, no matter if you can’t speak, no matter if you can’t fold a fitted sheet, no matter if….while you have breath in you, God can use you to usher others to His throne of grace and hope and unending love. God can use me. God can use you.
Because he loves us, we love (I John 4:19). Because hospitality is not about the meal cooked or the table shared. Biblical hospitality is extending what the gospel of Jesus Christ has extended us: forgiveness, grace, mercy, and love in tangible ways. Hospitality….faith expressed in love.
Most importantly, showing hospitality to others opens wide the doors to conversations about the most important relationship we can have in this life: the one with Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Lord saw fit to take my mom home to glory three years ago. And in a few weeks when our family gathers for Thanksgiving, I’ll dust off her pie dish, dig out that apple pie recipe, cut the apples, and fold the dough as our family gathers around the table that day. And in the days to come as I open wide the doors of my home, I’ll cherish the memories I had with her and the lessons of hospitality she taught me. Mainly, “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, Melissa, for the glory of God.”
As we enter the fall season, how can you show everyday hospitality to those in your life? Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to get started:
- What can I move around next week (or the next) to create white margin in my calendar and invite someone over for a meal?
- Is there a young woman in my church that I can consistently love on through hospitality? (think: care packages to college gals, young mom, recent college grad)
- Who in my church family is going through a season of grief? How can I show them God’s love in a simple way? (think: stop by their cubicle with coffee, card, gift card)
- What’s a small way I can extend hospitality in my community? (think: partnering with Pro-Life pregnancy centers, Christian Domestic Violence shelters, homeless ministries)