Getting Real about Our Sin
The two big foundational barriers to practicing hospitality are secret sin patterns and selfishness. Too often, Christians are not honest with one another about where we hurt, how we struggle, and what we need. We too often share prayer requests well after the fact. We aren’t vulnerable, we aren’t transparent, we aren’t honest, and sometimes we just sell and buy a corrupt theology that says, “If you’re all cleaned up then you’re all cleaned up, and you shouldn’t be struggling with sin ever again.” This is a corrupt theology. We are new creatures in Christ. We have the power to obey and we have Satan on our heels, but we’re weak.
What we have is the gift of repentance. Repentance is the threshold to God. Sin has a way of entangling itself around people—especially those who are thrust to the frontline of ministry, whether its a parachurch, pastoral, or even a hospitality ministry. So being honest about sin and dealing with it forthrightly—being daily in the Word for a long period of time (not a verse a day like unbelievers read their horoscopes—I mean in the Word) and on your knees, applying the means of grace. Your growth and sanctification is the first and foremost thing that you can and must be doing to be of any earthly good to anybody.
If you’re hiding a sin, you won’t be able to practice hospitality. In fact, you won’t want to. You’re going to be afraid that somebody’s going to find you out because hospitality makes you transparent to a watching world. They see you, they know how you live, and there’s no place to hide.
Inviting Others In Requires Giving Up
The other thing that is a foundational barrier to hospitality is selfishness. Selfishness hides itself in habits of middle-class ease. Favorite TV shows—if they become more important than other things—are a form of selfishness.
A hospitality house must always think about the weaker brother. For example, if you just can’t imagine living without a liquor cabinet that’s open and available, that's a problem (which is easy for me to say because we’re teetotalers). You must realize that you have the liberty to do things that maybe you ought not to be doing because it prevents you from doing these other things.
Selfishness hides itself in habits of middle-class ease.
You’ve got to think about what your selfish habits are and whether they are worth it. Time is short. There is so much to do in your neighborhood. There are so many hurting people who need you—who are waiting—but these habits can suck the life out of you. They are time-consuming. For example, social media is a ridiculous habit of selfishness and self-promotion. Yes, you could just call them sins, but they’re so universalized in our middle-class, evangelical world that they get a free pass.
The bottom line is this: if your white carpet is more valuable to you than the souls of your neighbors, that’s a problem.
Hospitality, biblically speaking, means love of the stranger. What hospitality is not is fellowship.
Radically ordinary hospitality—those who live it see strangers as neighbors and neighbors as family of God.
Hospitality is not a gift unto itself, but a means through which other spiritual gifts are displayed: mercy, serving, giving, and evangelizing.