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Show hospitality to one another without grumbling  I Peter 4:9

This Scriptural command is an easy one to obey.

At least for us Southerners, right?

Doesn't this evoke images of a tastefully decorated home, an exquisite menu, and a beautifully dressed woman with manicured nails?

In a word - NO.

I don't think that's what Scripture means. At all.

When Scripture exhorts us to "practice hospitality" (Romans 12:13) what does it mean?  If it doesn't mean knocking yourself out to present a perfect picture, what, then, is it?

Just look at the word - "hospitality".  It's closely related to the words "hospital", "hotel", as well as "hostile".  What is the connection between these?  Simply put, I think it's the idea of receiving strangers/outsiders and caring for them in such a way that they are changed from strangers into friends. The emphasis is relationship.

This is very different from entertaining, where the focus can often be on eliciting compliments for the host.....not on meeting the needs of the strangers.

Hospitality means making others feel like they "belong", like they are no longer an outsider, an alien.  It has little to do with the table decorations and instead everything to do with being cared for.

And hospitality doesn't need a showcase of a home to transpire.  In fact, it doesn't even need a home at all. It can be at the ball field, where the family of a new kid is hoping they can fit in.  It can be in an adult Sunday School class, where a new couple visits and looks for a place to sit.  It can be at the crowded Chick-fil-A, where an elderly man sits alone, trying to adjust to his new status as a widower.

Hospitality can be anywhere.  In fact, we are not to simply wait for an opportunity to present itself - we are actually to be on the lookout for an outlet for our hospitable spirit!  The verse in Romans that tells us to "practice hospitality" literally means "pursue hospitality".  We are to seek out people to encourage, to care for, to transform from being a "hostile" into a friend.

No, this isn't an easy command to obey.  We tend to prefer socializing with our friends and entertaining those we enjoy (or at least those who can benefit us).  If we aren't intentional about hospitality, all those strangers remain outsiders.  They miss the blessings of connection and we miss the joy of the transformation.  Instead of meeting needs, we are often seeking favor.

God help us.  Help us to be hospitable.

Oh, and if He does lead us to create a stunning centerpiece, to prepare a gourmet tray of goodies, and to sport a stunning new haircut, may we especially heed the last part of that verse....."without grumbling."