October 31, 2012

No More Excuses or Assumptions

We all have the thought: It would be nice to get to know her more. Maybe I should invite her over.

But something often stands in the way of the first thought and the second. Something causes us to hesitate, to shrink back. Something keeps us from asking. What is it? Why do we do this?
Perhaps we have misconceptions about what hospitality is. Perhaps we define it according to a worldly lens, where hospitality can only happen when we finally get our home to look like a Pottery Barn catalog and a menu from Bon Appetit perfected. If all cannot be done immaculately and Martha Stewart-y, it's not worth doing at all. So we don't ask, because we live in an apartment and there are Goldfish smashed into the carpet and we only have one bathroom and what would they think?

But perhaps we even use the perfectionist ideal of hospitality as an excuse. Perhaps the real issue is that we're insecure and afraid to ask because what if she doesn't want to be friends? What if she thinks we're weird? Asking someone to get together sometimes feels very vulnerable and awkward. So we don't ask, because of ourselves and this notion of having to be perfect.

But there are other things that cause us to hesitate, or maybe I'm the only one. I make assumptions about people: they wouldn't want to, they're too busy, they are in a different life stage and I don't know what to do with that, from what I know we probably wouldn't have anything in common. Most assumptions, however, are far from true. They typically only serve to create divisions and invite more of my insecurities.

It might help to return to a basic definition of hospitality. The New Testament word means love for outsiders. There is nothing in there about placemats or centerpieces, nothing about receiving a return invitation, nothing about dining with only certain types of people. It seems to imply a strong pursuit, a seeking of those who are outsiders to invite them to become insiders.

We can only take up this definition of hospitality when we are free from our worldly confines of perfectionism and reputation-building. We can only take up this definition when we know and want to live out the gospel.

The gospel takes away all excuses, all assumptions, all self-focus. Second Corinthians 5:14-15 says that the love of Christ compels us outward and, as Tim Keller describes, enables us to experience the freedom of self-forgetfulness. True hospitality is birthed there.

So let's be done with excuses. Let's put to death those silly insecurities. Let's ask when we think of inviting someone into our home and our heart.

It may just be the Holy Spirit leading.

And she just might say yes.

This is the second in a series of posts on hospitality. You can read the first here. At the end of the series, on November 7th, I will host a link-up to share hospitality tips and ideas. If you would like to participate, begin planning your blog post now. Tell us what you are learning about hospitality. How do you practice hospitality? What recipes could you share with us? How do you get over your insecurities in this area? How have you built friendships through unbelievers through hospitality? I can't wait to see and read all your wonderful ideas!