The Beauty of True Hospitality
In The Gospel Comes with a House Key Rosaria Butterfield writes compellingly, calling Christians to take action in practicing radically ordinary hospitality “to bring glory to God, serve others and to live out the gospel in word and deed” (31). Butterfield describes radically ordinary hospitality as, “using your Christian home in a daily way that seeks to make strangers neighbors, and neighbors family of God.” (31) This book has completely changed my view of what it means to extend hospitality, it has provided me with a Christ-centered perspective of hospitality that I was lacking before, and it has shown me the importance of hospitality.
Butterfield points to God’s promise to put those who are lonely in families and the role we are called to play in that as the body of Christ (Ps. 68:6; 1 Cor. 12:12, 27). Rosaria and her family offer hospitality to others by opening their home to their church family on a daily basis, specifically seeking out single women in their church community. The Butterfields do this because they see fellow believers as their family in Christ, therefore, they want to share one another’s burdens and strengthen the family of God (Gal. 6:2; Rom. 12:13). They practice this transformative hospitality because they remember what it feels like to be lonely. They know that sin loves isolation, and they remember the feeling of inclusion that being invited into the lives of others brings.
While reading Butterfield’s accounts of what hospitality has looked like in her home, I had to stop and ask myself: do you see the body of Christ as your family? To be honest, I have picked only a handful of Christians who I have called close friends to treat as family. I have not sought to extend hospitality (“defined as the love of the stranger”) to strangers, but only to those with whom I had already built relationships. Through the fears that come along with pursuing strangers, I must remember that I, too, was once a stranger. But through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and my faith in Him I am now called a daughter! Christ is the example of genuine, sacrificial love, welcoming others into the family of God even at a great cost to himself. How much more then should I pursue and love the stranger, seeking to reflect the love of Christ, and gain brothers and sisters in Christ!
The Butterfield’s not only open their home to fellow Christians but are also frequently inviting non-believers into their home and lives. The hope behind their radically ordinary hospitality to non-believers is to add to the family of God by “taking the hand of a stranger and placing it in the hand of the Savior” (34). Hearing the word hospitality may have painted a mental picture of entertaining guests in a more formal setting, but Rosaria explains that, “Hospitality shares what there is; that’s all. It’s not entertainment. It’s not supposed to be.” (217) Rosaria does not worry about the laundry left unfolded or the complexity of the meals she serves while inviting others into her home. Instead she pushes for a hospitality that is transparent and vulnerable, one that shows our burdens and struggles to those around us so that the gospel may shine all the brighter!
While reading the first half of the book, I struggled to see how I could practice hospitality in the way that Butterfield does. The reality is that I am not Rosaria. We do not have the same personalities, giftings, or roles to play in our respective lives. So, I am not going to imitate exactly how she welcomes others. She admits later on in the book that hospitality is her life, it is what she does. Toward the end of the book, Butterfield calls to attention the different seasons of life that cause hospitality rhythms to change, and she admits to the hardships that can come with practicing radically ordinary hospitality. The thing is, Butterfield is not calling Christians to practice hospitality in the ways that she does. But she is calling them to practice hospitality. She acknowledges that hospitality practices are going to look differently for different people, and that it does not always involve having people over to your home for a meal. I appreciate that Butterfield discusses hospitality in the context of daily life, the church, the home and even deathbed hospitality.
The Gospel Comes with a House Key is one of the most impactful books I have ever read, and I highly recommend taking the time to read it. But don’t approach it lightly. This book wrecked me because it pointed out the shame that I held onto which hindered me from being hospitable to others. It convicted me of the sins that I kept close while pushing others further away. As I continued to read, I saw the comfort that I clung to and the pride I ignored, both of which prevented me from opening up my home to others. But it wasn’t just my home that I had prevented others from entering into. I had prevented others from entering into my hardships with me, from speaking truth into the doubts I have had, from seeing me in my weakness, and ultimately from seeing my brokenness. I tried for so long to hide behind a mask, telling others and often myself, that I was okay. Once I became a follower of Christ, I experienced freedom in acknowledging my brokenness and my need for a Savior. However, learning to share my brokenness and to express my needs to others has been a learning process. I am now convinced that there is no better way to allow others to enter into my life and to share the gospel with them than to open the front door wide and say “Welcome!”
-By Shelby Mendoza