Making Your Home a Hospital

In season two of every American’s favorite British melodrama, Downton Abbey, Lord Grantham nobly choses to transform his home into a hospital for wounded soldiers. His mother disagrees: a home, she argues, is for comfort, pleasure, and family. Opening it to the sick is too costly. In the end Grantham is vindicated, but not without suffering.

I think Jesus would agree with Lord Grantham,

And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” (Mark 4:30-32)

All followers of Christ may consider themselves part of the mustard tree. Our families are like the “larges branches” that “the birds of the air can make nests in.” We are the leaves providing “shade” from the sun. His metaphor describes a character traits of his authentic followers: hospitality.

Today we tend to see hospitality as a special gift give to few women and even fewer men. Most of us think, “I’d like to be hospitable, but we’re not very good at it.” Or, “We don’t have time! The house is just too crazy with kids.” But jesus calls the whole kingdom a mustard tree. All of us are branches. God intends every single person to bear the burden of hospitality!

Jesus’ metaphor is frank: hospitality will cost you. Notice the root word of hospitality: hospital. When we invite people over for dinner, or even to live with us, our goal is to provide hospital services like care, love, attentiveness, and healing. This requires burden bearing on our part, like a branch taking the heat of the sun to provide shade or the weight of a nest to provide a home. It can be both financially expensive and emotionally exhausting.

But Jesus also encourages us. As we bear the burden, the tree grows. Through hospitality, more people enter into God’s eternal kingdom. Jesus himself enters into us by his Spirit to help us bear the burden. He is the trunk, the root, the strength, and he’s an expert at hospitality. Consider how Jesus offers us rest from the burden fulfilling God’s law, or how he bore the heat of God’s wrath in our place, or how he promises to make us a home in the kingdom of God.

Jesus invites us to participate with him in his glorious kingdom of hospitality. Let’s consider how Christ’s two goals, shade and nesting, can shape how we practice hospitality:

  1. Set people at ease: If you’re house is messier than your like, don’t apologize a dozen times. That puts the burden of compliments on your guest’s shoulders. A nest is relaxing. Provide refreshing food, drink, and music. Avoid frantic cleaning (or cooking) when guests arrive. Encourage laughter.  Relax your posture. Invite friends to feel at home.
  2. Bear the conversational burden: Let me speak especially to men. Your wife, because she’s more emotionally intelligent than you, will take up this baton if you drop it. However, if men want to be shade-providers they must engage in conversation. Engage other men in the room. Ask questions. Invite them out for a cigar or a drink. Push conversation beyond sports and work. Ask about dreams, fears, and desires.
  3. Encourage transparency: This starts with laughing at yourself. Take off your mask. Don’t fake perfect. Share your personal struggles as a parent, or in your marriage. Invite friends to remove their masks and share. Nothing is more relaxing or inviting than eating dinner with confident people who don’t fake it.
  4. Set a goal that people leave refreshed: Why do you have people over? To alleviate your boredom? To a quiet night with your spouse? Because you guiltily think you’re ought to? Change your goals. Invite people over to encourage, refresh and restore them. When we do so cheerfully, we magnify the glory of the hospitable God. Ask his Spirit to do the work, because his Spirit is an expert, willing physician. Ask that your friend’s stomach and soul would leave  fuller than when he arrived.

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