Radical Hospitality & Incarnational Mission in Suburbia

I have been reflecting on a conversation in a recent post…

In response to this post, Matt, Harry & I had a short conversation regarding the nature of incarnational mission and the place of ‘radical hospitality’ within it. I would like to spend a bit more time on it because I believe it an important issue and I’d like to hear how others would approach things.

To give some context, in regard to how we interact locally, part of my post said:

I must admit I am wary of having my neighbours so much a part of my life that they feel free to drop in at any time and stay for as long as they like. There is a part of me that warms to the thought of such connected lives, but then a part of me that also values the privacy of my home and the ability to confidently retreat.

Having seen the way some neighbours can come and never leave I have probably swayed to a safer position. In some ways this is out of kilter with what I hope to see develop and yet if I am to survive in this setting for the long term then it is just common sense.

I should be careful to add that we are not reclusive and have quite an open home, but I do like to have space to retreat within my home.

Matt responded:

I’m not sure this is, as you say, “common sense”, well not in a vulnerable, reciprocal, welcoming the stranger, kind of way.

And went on to describe his own position as “mi casa et su casa” or my house is your house, certainly a bold and radical way to live in a community.

He asked:

“I wonder if there has to be some sort of reckless abandonment, a “letting go” of those safe perimeters, if we are to truly connect with our neighbours on an equal, reciprocal level, rather than us occupying the position of “saviour” and them the position of “lost” – not words we would necessarily use, but i wonder if self-protection reveals we still hold to a “we will save the world mentality”.”

Great question!

We had some discussion about our different approaches and Harry chipped in as well by suggesting that ‘radical hospitality’ may be beyond the capacity of the average nuclear family and that the local church maybe ought to be function as this kind of community.

For the purpose of the conversation let’s define ‘radical hospitality’ as “mi casa et su casa” because that is certainly a stretch for most of us. It means people are welcome any time and we are always open to having guests in our home, whether they be the ‘good friend’ kind or the ‘homeless recently out of prison’ kind (with obvious precautions taken to cater for kids).

Part of my own reticence to adopt Matt’s position comes simply from my natural introversion. While I like people and function well in groups, I do find that I tire when I am around large groups for a long period of time. For that matter I get tired around small groups too and just need ‘space’. It took me a while to realise this about myself and I would sometimes go home tired and grumpy from a party and not know why. Now I just leave early! On the DISC profile I am a ‘DIC’ (no surprises hey?…) The reasonably high ‘I’ is my people orientation. And it stays high so long as I am not stressed or overloaded. Part of my own learning has been how to avoid putting myself in places where I get overloaded with work or people because in those situations I get short, terse and task oriented. Not pretty.

Danelle is quite the opposite. She loves people, enjoys parties and would rather have endless drop ins all day. She gets tired after a while, but its a looong while. So in our house we have had to strike a balance, and I think we’ve done ok.

The question that I am chewing on is how does the openness of our home affect the way we do mission here in Brighton. There’s no question that our work is relational and long term, so knowing how to approach that in a healthy way is vital to our sustainability and effectiveness.

I have moved a long way in my own ‘hospitableness’, but I will never be Danelle. I wonder if stretching myself in this area is good discipline, or if it actually being untrue to the person I am? Is it more genuine to just let my friends know that I am introvert who enjoys their company, but needs to get away, or should I look at pushing thru this and learning how to live in a different way, while still being who I am?

I imagine all of us in similar missionary ventures are faced with the same issue in some shape or form, so I’d really value your reflections and interactions on this one.

39 thoughts on “Radical Hospitality & Incarnational Mission in Suburbia

  1. Hey mate,

    I wonder if it is possible for us to simply see ourselves as one of many people living in our suburbs, rather than missionaries trying to change our community and those “others” in it.

    When I worked in a church our desire was to see our community changed – we saw those outside our church congregation as “others” who needed the stuff we had. We worked hard to “reach” them in the most culturally relevant and authentic way available to us (within our understanding and experience). But no matter which way we cut it – the people in the surrounding community were our “project” first and foremost.

    Ironically, I now believe we had mis:labelled the reality of the situation. The church congregation who met at the community building were in fact guests in that community – it turns out that WE were the “others” – some might have likened us to “aliens”.

    However, now that I don’t work for a church anymore, and its not my “job” (I don’t draw a wage from it) to reach my neighbourhood for JESUS, I find myself simply a part of a local community. I choose to work locally (2km from home), study locally (5 km from home), play locally (1km from home), school our children locally (1km from home), & shop locally (1km from home). Nothing too sexy about that, but I do feel like I am one of many – on equal standing with those around me – open and able to offer and receive as needed. Therefore, my home is simply a natural extension of who we really are, and we open our doors as an expression of our faith.

    I can’t help but feel, if we deliberately stop short of home-based hospitality, we are guarding the most authentic part of our lives from those we seek to live amongst. Granted, it may be exactly what is expected and presented from the many others in our community, but this is where I think the Kingdom slips ever so subversively into our midst. We simply open our doors when others shut theirs – we proclaim a “welcome and open” space, when others hang out their “SORRY -FULL” signs.

    But this is how our personal journey looks and I definitely don’t have the balls to say this is how it should be. Instead, I offer this as a means to possibly explore what the Good News might look like in an average middle-class suburban landscape, for average middle-class christian suburbanites.

    note: i think underneath much of my thinking (spoken and unspoken), is a re:framed understanding of “evangelism” and “mission”. I don’t see myself as a missionary, nor do I see my responsibility/call is to save those around me. Instead I’m wrestling with what it may mean to live in christian community, amongst and in view of, my neighbours and the only way I can do that is to open up our home/world to those around us.

    thanks for the space to think out loud.

  2. PS – can I just throw in the fact that I don’t consider what we do as “radical hospitality” if comparing ourselves to UNOH or Peace Tree crew-types. But what we do may be seen as “radical” where we find ourselves in our type of community.


  3. I think you can stretch the edges of your personality and still stay true to who you are. At the same time, I doubt God would ask you to switch personalities 🙂 Just as he doesn’t ask your wife to change personalities. The compromise you will make for each other would be similar I think.

    You both sound similar to my husband and I… he the introvert and me the extrovert. I am ready to invite anyone and everyone into our home, including the man holding the sign outside our local grocery store. Bryan? not so much. I hold back. He stretches his social interaction, and even initiates it! 🙂 And we check in with each other to make sure we aren’t driving each other crazy and we’ve opened our home when God has asked us to.

    off to bed.

  4. Hey mate – glad you’re back for more conversation. I’m enjoying it and its a topic I hope others join in with.

    You asked the question “I wonder if it is possible for us to simply see ourselves as one of many people living in our suburbs, rather than missionaries trying to change our community and those “others” in it.”

    My reflection would be that I tend to see it as ‘both’.

    I hope we are an integral part of the community and that we value people for who they are, and yet the point I have come to in this journey is that there is an ‘us and them’ (stay with me 🙂 )

    But it doesn’t need to be an ‘us=superior’ and ‘them=inferior’ or an ‘us v them’. Its just an acknowledgment that we have chosen to follow Jesus while others haven’t. in many things there is just ‘us’ – people in community – but in some we choose different paths.

    However having said that I believe passionately that part of our responsibility as Christians is to proclaim what we know of who Jesus is, in whatever form that takes. I can’t help but see Jesus and Paul with very clear missionary agendas, yet it wasn’t in a manner that patronised the people they were around – however – certainly in Paul’s case it did at times put him at odds with the people.

    I realise I can’t control any outcomes, but I do believe my vocation in life is to point others to Jesus.

    So when I use the word ‘missionary’ I believe a) we’re all ‘sent ones’ b) some may have a vocational dimension to this.

    I understand you don’t want to claim the title of ‘radical hospitality’ but as you say, for many “mi casa et su casa” is at the outer end of radical for the suburbs!

  5. Hamo

    I think Kerry and I are a lot like you and Danelle. My wife said to my daughter the other day, every second Saturday we are going to have people around for tea!!!! This is true, this is what she said, EVERY SECOND SATURDAY!!! – my daughter said, have you told Dad yet? Well, she hadn’t but when my wife told me the deal, it was I who did the ringing up and inviting, put me back into a position of POWER and also I could get to invite those I wanted and felt more relaxed around.

    Now, she’s changing the rules, she wants to choose as well!!!!My wife and Mother Teresa would also have alot in common … so come Saturday night, I am not sure who will be knocking at my door!!! DINKUM!!!

    JUST DON”T SIT IN MY RECLINER AND ASK WHERE”S THE REMOTE – these objects are mine!!! But then I am the boss of my house – I can put as much dish wash in as I want!!!! Well that’s not true she reckons I put too much in.

  6. PS – hospitality, would love to open my home to Grendel and clan if ever in Albany, not because I am interested in converting but would enjoy meeting – yes, indeed.

  7. Lots of thoughts on this one – one I wrestle with lots – both in terms of opening my house, opening and being a presence in our chuch building/community space and also just more generally in community.

    I’m an extrovert who is heading towards being more introverted by the day – and while I love having people around, I also need my space desperately. I’m definately called to hospitality but I’m more convinced than ever that that’s authentic and genuine hospitality.

    A few thoughts from my journey with it all:

    – it’s been a tough year for me and I’ve learnt that saying “I’m not up for stuff today (or wasn’t yesterday)” can be one of the most missional statements I can make; it shows I’m human and opens up all sorts of conversations, it says that when I am offering hospitality it’s real and not begrudged (even if sometimes a choice), and it allows me to make choices in real freedom

    – I’ve been learning that to choose to offer hospitality doesn’t mean I have to have people over/around in the way I’ve historically been taught to offer hospitality. “you can come and hang out but I need some head space so I’ll be just watching tv, doing the dishes, in my room” is something I’m learning to say.

    – I reckon often as we talk about this stuff we head up the end of “enmeshed” relating and then the counter response to that is “high boundaries” relating. I reckon a kingdom response is neither of those but rather something that is open and that holds our own centre, place and needs well.

    Those a few of my thoughts tonight – reflecting on my own journeying with it all over the last while.

  8. I agree with you Barb – having an open door doesn’t mean you have to be entertaining those who choose to share your space. It’s more about being willing to share your space and to be human in that space with whoever happens to be around.

    With the guys we meet with, we try and hold to the idea that if you choose to come to our house that is your gift to us. But at the same time, we also try to encourage people to see that choosing to stay away when they don’t feel they have the capacity to engage with others is also a gift – a gift of authenticity, which we also try to treasure.

    the point for me is the surrendering of facades – crating a space where people feel safe enough to simply be themselves, muck and all – which may also lead to conflict, not just happy chappies. A space where one can be authentic, real, earthy is one of the greatest gifts we can offer our communities, especially in suburbia/privatopia.

  9. Two thoughts I’m done –

    Aboriginals that I know in Katanning and Tambellup, do exactly what you are Blogging about All the time, would be shame if they didn’t – people are welcome any time and they are always open to having guests in their homes, whether they be the ‘good friend’ kind or the ‘homeless recently out of prison’ kind (with obvious precautions taken to cater for kids).

    Secondly, growing up in a country town with 4 popular kids (our own) – our place has become a sleepover/hangout, etc, etc – and we choose to create an environment that our Children’s friends feel at ease – they even tag along when we go camping and out for meals – this we enjoy greatly.

  10. Great post and comments. We’ve been thinking through the same issues – and there’s a certain aspect of us that wants to “rescue” without realising that sometimes we need rescued too. What’s been eye-opening for us these past few weeks since our new baby arrived is the really open-handed gracious hospitality and help given to us by some non-Christian friends around the corner. They’ve delivered meals, looked after our daughter, stuff like that. Should humble us and remind us of God’s “common” grace, as the Puritans called it.

  11. We had great neighbours who did drop in whenever, borrow stuff from our shed etc. Their kid was sometimes over at 7.30am. If we wanted her to go home we told her what time she could come back.

    My hubby tires around people. If he was getting tired, he’d just go and do whatever it was he wanted to do, and I kept talking. If we had stuff we had to do, we told them. We dropped in on them. We borrowed their stuff. It was Fabulous. Mostly I think because I had already decided before I met them that real relationships require give and take. Not only must I help them, but I must be willing to receive and ask for their help to create a true friendship. How hard is that for 1. A Christian, 2. An Aussie? Perhaps that is why we find it so hard to ask for or accept help – because it creates a deeper bond with someone.

    Our new neighbours are, when we see them, always offering, “if there’s anything we can do to help.” I have asked for their help a few times, and they have helped us out. I have also asked them over for dinner a few times, to which they have always refused. I have been to their church functions when they invite me. I suspect they’ve set their boundaries and are protecting their family time.

    Even my partner who tires around people misses having neighbours who drop in whenever.

    Next time our new neighbours ask, “if there’s anything we can do to help?” I might just say, “what I really need is friendship.”

  12. When I hear the phrase “radical hospitality” I immediately think of the Benedictine rule about “receiving everyone as if they were Christ.” But that’s a rule for a community — a highly structured community where daily life is organized around corporate and private prayer and shared labor. That kind of structure creates a “space” in the community and in the lives of the members to welcome strangers. Of course, the strangers are welcomed into that structure; they don’t alter it very much.

    What strikes me about my life, and the experience of suburban life in general, is that we live so over-extended (by work, shuttling kids around, church commitments, whatever) that we don’t leave a lot of space in our lives, whether that’s actual time at home, or time we aren’t exhausted by all the stuff we’re doing. As an introvert, I know the only hope for me to be hospitable to any degree is to make sure I get sufficient down time to recharge. I also wonder how a community of like-minded “missionary” types in the neighborhood can support one another in this.

  13. Great topic to post on Hamo, a personal favourite.

    Our community in Preston, Melbourne is pretty much shaped around the idea of radical hospitality. For different members of our community this takes on a different look depending on gifts, personality type, stage of life and faith journey and I think that’s probably a good thing.

    We have structured regular times of hospitality (like a weekly community dinner), less structured (like inviting friends/people from the local community around for a meal/cuppa) and then entirely unstructured (like people just dropping in ‘cos they need something or want to hang out). We also have had people live with us over the last two years which has been a great blessing and challenge (particularly when they are the ‘homeless recently out of prison’ kind).

    I really agree with Barb and otherendup in that you have to continue to be yourself but work that in to radical hospitality. Just because you are being hospitable doesn’t mean that you always have to be ‘on’ or put yourself in an unsustainable position. We’ve learnt lots about this lately as my wife is pregnant and so is much more tired than usual. This has meant that she’s often trundled off to bed for a snooze or our guests have come and perched themselves on the end of her bed for a chat if she was up for it. I think this part of it REALLY important, particularly when working with the ‘homeless recently out of prison’ mob. If we are to be truly hospitable then we can pretend to be superheroes, we must be ourselves. Broken and normal but also hopeful and believing in ideas like radical hospitality.

    I also loved what Maria said. We’ve had to make some space in our lives so that we can be radically hospitable. Jay and I both only work 3-4 days a week so that we can spend time in the community.

    I think I’d answer the question ‘how does the openness of our home affect the way we do mission here in Brighton?’ by saying that the openness of your home offers you an opportunity to show the gospel in action, it gives you an avenue to display the alternative reality of the kingdom, you can practically express how the gospel of Jesus critiques a world where we shut each other out rather than welcome the stranger and make ourselves vulnerable to one another.

    Phew! What a rant. I did warn you that this was a favourite though… Peace.

  14. What you say, Maria, is true, I reckon. As Hamo noted in his post, I think that a community is necessary to extend hospitality to people in this “radical” way. By “radical” I don’t mean ‘hardcore’ but, like Peter Maurin, something that gets to the root of things and looks like the practice which flows from Jesus life and teachings.

    A community allows an intensely introverted person like me to be stretched but not to the point of breaking. I can share the load with my brothers and sisters. All that said, the Peace Tree is aspirational when it comes to practicing hospitality of this kind. We have done little more than experiment with it.

    May God have mercy on us all,


  15. Thanks for the comments so far guys.

    A question re the nature of ‘hospitality’…

    I have always felt it important to be ‘present’ for people any time they are around.

    I would feel rude were I to read the paper, head off and check email or go for a nap. Some of what I am reading seems to be a different perspective on what it means to be hospitable.

    To me being fully present has always been at the core of my understanding of hospitality – which is probably why I find it tiring at times.

  16. i think there is a difference between being present and entertaining. it takes a lot of courage to be present and not entertain – it is much more of a gift than simply “serving” the other person.

    this revolves around the idea of reciprocity – a two way relationship not 1 way. Just because it is your house doesn’t mean you are responsible for everyone in it, all the conversations and meeting everyone’s needs. You have simply allowed the space to be used as needed – and one of your needs might be to sit and read the paper.

  17. Cosign with otherendup.

    To me, hospitality is the ability to make our space available to our neighbours.

    Our family stayed in a couple of homes during the holidays and I’m certainly glad they didn’t feel the need to entertain me while I was using their toilet or their bed.

    I am also an introvert and hospitality certainly falls under the category of discipline for me personally. But, I’m glad I’m learning how to be hospitable. Because while I would be inclined to be alone, being lonely is hell. I need to open up my home and my space for others because I need to have others open their home and their space for me.

  18. hamo, i can relate to your interpretation of being ‘present’ with guests – and why it is so tiring – that’s exactly how I am with people

    our neighbours are now dropping in all the time, it’s taking some getting used to for us ex-city slickers who are used to the roller door syndrome

    all part of the process of what we’re attempting to do in our new community

  19. One of my old aunts (in her nineties) who lived by herself until recently has always made her home available to whoever needed the unconditional love of a granny. There were always drug-dependant teenage mothers, young gay men confused at being rejected by the church, all kinds. She would love them and welcome them with open arms at any time of day or night.

    A few years ago a conversation came up with her that challenged me to my core… Aunty was becoming tired, understandably as she was 87yrs old and up all hours of the night with people calling her and coming over.

    We said to her “Aunty, it’s probably time to slow things up a bit…God knows your heart and its ok to close your doors now.”

    Her reply was this: “If I’m not being broken bread and poured out wine for the Lord, whatever shall I do?”

    She didn’t open her home to be ‘missional’ or radical…to her it was simple obedience to Jesus that moved her to love hurting people. And she withheld nothing from Him.

    What is most challenging in this for me is how I perceive my “ownership” of my life, my rights. I really want to give my whole life to Christ but reserve my right to set up boundaries that I think are appropriate and work for me. Then I don’t have to trust that God actually knows me, that he is my lover and the one in whom I find all I need.

    Hate facing my own hypocrisy…so gross!

  20. “I wonder if stretching myself in this area is good discipline, or if it actually being untrue to the person I am? Is it more genuine to just let my friends know that I am introvert who enjoys their company, but needs to get away, or should I look at pushing thru this and learning how to live in a different way, while still being who I am?”

    I hooked onto this thought when I read your post for the first time a day or two ago and have been giving it some thought as it has come into play in my life in a different way in the last few days.

    I’ve been thinking in more general terms about the idea of how far one is to go to change himself in order to conform to the image of Jesus or to best show the heart of God or be the hands and feet of God or whatever phrase you’d like to use. I know that I am to be conformed to the image of God, transformed, reformed, and everything else, but to what extent am I to seek this out?

    For instance, what if I was one of those people that is really quiet in group settings (none of this is true–I’m using an example). One-on-one, I interact with people wonderfully, but I am horrible in groups. Reading the Gospels, it’s pretty clear that Jesus wasn’t shy. Am I then to force myself to throw away my shyness in order that I be more like how Jesus would have been, or am I to–knowing myself and how I best interact–choose to use that gifting of being great in one-on-one interactions to best further the Kingdom in that way?

    It seems to me that being conformed to the image of God transcends more facets of reality; that is, I am not to simply “copy” Jesus, but rather “copy” the idea of incarnation–I am a Christian, created in the image of God, saved by grace, on mission in the world, gifted in certain ways, using these gifts of God to further His Kingdom.

    I have no idea to what extent that is true–or even if it’s true at all. I’ve only been thinking about it for a day or so now, but it has definitely presented me with some interesting thoughts.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am trying to be as much like Jesus as possible. He was a pretty cool guy. So don’t read my comment and think I’m ditching the whole New Testament. Just thinking (very roughly) out loud.

  21. Radical hospitality – why the adverb? Hospitality 101, Radical Hospitality 202?

    Great words, Allie. Obedience, eh? Hard word to use in a postmodern world, we might need to put it this way, request a ‘lifestyle change’use all that you are and all that you have to be change agents for Jesus – it isn’t yours anyway, there are no pockets in a shroud.

  22. Sorry…yeah ‘obedience’ does sound antiquated. I wonder why we don’t like it so much? It kinda conjures up images of a drill sergent, when actually true obedience is a choice.

    The way you put it was better – just what i was trying to say!

  23. Steven, i was thinking that there are times when Jesus talked to big groups, but also times when he met with people one-on-one, like the woman at the well. Maybe within the wonderful breadth and depth of the ‘personality’ of Jesus we all find a place, something that we can relate to, an example to follow.

  24. Hi Guys

    Been busy the last few days, but still chewing on this topic.

    I tend to think hospitality is more about making people feel welcome rather than simply making space available.

    Which means effort is usually required.

    For some (like me) that may require more effort than for others. I am happy to make the effort. But if I hear you right Matt it seems that hospitality should flow more naturally and maybe even be effort-less.

    is that what you are saying?

    On ‘obedience’ its funny it came up because I was about to post on that exact topic. Its an expression I have often used, but recently have felt it be somewhat antiquated.

    I wonder if its because our culture has shifted so the word has morphed a little in meaning?

    I wholeheartedly sign up for the concept, but that word in particular is not resonating like it used to.

    For some reason it makes me think of dog obedience classes…


  25. Hamo, i think the making and protecting of space – making sure it is available, free, safe – is far from effortless and for some, far from natural. In fact the choice to open your home is one of the hardest choices one can make, especially if you have kids (or lots of nice stuff 😉 I do think it can become “effortless” in a sense that a decision has can made to open the home that doesn’t need to get re-visited every day (although seasons of life may see that openness change shape).

    I wonder if the “welcoming” you feel is necessary for people to experience is a more superficial effort than what I am leaning towards as being an atmosphere or an essence – which is more of a surrendering.

    Although both are great and necessary, I think when one places themselves in an open, receiving, giving, surrendered position to others, the space can become “thin” or liminal for all those within, rather than a place where the host always feels responsible for those in the host’s space (see how the host “owns” this sort of space?).

    I think possibly the challenge in thinking Hamo, is to move beyond seeing hospitality as something a responsible “host” has to do in order to be getting hospitality “right”.

  26. Matt, lots of times I have been to someone’s house, on their invitation, where I have felt welcome but completely ignored. And superficial it might be, but it felt like crap.

    I felt like saying ‘you can keep your house, I would rather have your heart.’

  27. Allie, I’m not sure if you’re agreeing or disagreeing with me ????

    People are pretty cluey – they can work out pretty quickly whether they feel safe or not in someone else’s house/space. For example, I doubt you returned often to the sort of houses you referred to.

    An open home without an open heart is just a cold dwelling – far from the sort of safe space I’m talking about.

    As you know, people come through our house like it was fitted with some sort of revolving door 😉 Our desire is that people would feel safe enough to be themselves – warts and all, and part of encouraging that sort of place, we also need to drop our own masks and efforts to be the perfect hosts all the time. This has been challenging – more so for me than Tam, as I wrestle with the need to be needed 😉 .

    We simply try to live in a way that speaks – “you are welcome to share our space as your own” (Mi casa es tu casa – My home is your home). This means we dream of people feeling safe enough to simply “be” – kind of like they would if they were in their own home behind closed doors – where all the social games we often play in front of each other, stop for a moment – a kind of oasis / refuge.

    I think we’re saying the same thing though 🙂 aren’t we????

  28. Yes I think we are saying the same thing. I absolutely agree with you that our homes should be safe for people to drop all pretense and be themselves. I think I just interpreted some of the posts (not necessarily yours) as saying ‘People can come over if they want, but don’t expect me to be nice’. I think what you are saying is ‘don’t expect me to be perfect’. And I agree. (I would put a smiley face there a la ‘otherendup’ but I don’t know how!) (Sad face).

    So can I ask you another question Matty, do you take responsibility for creating a safe space, a refuge within your home? Or do you hope it just happens? Or is it up to whoever is there at the time? Can you take responsibility without taking ownership (in the possessive sense)? Or do we need to drop all these kind of expectations of each other? But then how do we protect the refuge? Would love to hear how you see it. x

  29. By the way Matt, the reason I am interested is because at the end of last year I said to Glenn “Can we not have people over every night of the week next year? My energy levels and our bank account can’t maintain this”. And maybe I got so exhausted cos I am looking at hospitality all wrong. What ya reckon?

  30. It does seem like semantics are being argued. Certainly being warm and welcoming is part of the ability to make our space available to others. Allowing people to wonder my home while I stand like a security guard in the corner of a museum isn’t hospitable at all.

    I guess this discussion is revolving around what constitutes proper hospitality. I am appreciating what Matt is saying in that hospitality is making our space available for people to be who they are. And, I suppose there is a discipline in receiving hospitality as well. Are we accepting a person’s generosity because we appreciate the person or because we expect the fatted calf?

    Consider the story of Jesus visiting Mary and Martha’s house. Martha was busy making preparations and Mary was spending time with Jesus. In my view, there was nothing wrong with Martha making preparations. But, Martha became so concerned with the preparations that she forgot what she was making preparations for. She had a guest in her home. What made matters worse in her mind was that her flatmate Mary didn’t have her priorities. So, after some time for her frustration to build up, she barked at her guest to scold Mary into helping with those important preparations. Jesus’ response?

    “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

    This has been a good thread for me to read since hospitality is such a vital component of discipleship in the suburbs. Here is a serious question (serious because I’m not sure) for Hamo, otherendup and all the others participating in this thread. In the context of this story, what does Jesus mean by the “one thing”?

  31. Allie… quick lesson in smilies. In succession press semi-colon, dash, right bracket, ie. ; – ) but without spaces. when you publish your post it then becomes the winking smilie. Same thing with a colon instead of a semi-colon will give you a standard smilie.

    have fun 😉

  32. Allie said, “…the reason I am interested is because at the end of last year I said to Glenn “Can we not have people over every night of the week next year? My energy levels and our bank account can’t maintain this”

    We certainly don’t invite people over every night, but our home is open for people to come over every night. Although we do have people living with us (and have created an alternative space for them to use as they see fit), we are not actively seeking to fill our space with people at all times. What are doing however, is seeking to maintain a space with an atmosphere of humility, authenticity, joy, celebration…. ultimately a space where the peace of God reigns.

    Now, as you know, any space with young kids will often present more as a place of chaos and constant noise (until bedtime anyway 😉 ) But, this is where the “don’t expect me to be perfect” value comes in. We are who we are, and you are welcome to be who you right alongside us, if you should choose to do so.

    The way we try to maintain/protect such a space is two fold:

    1. We can only truly love others to the degree that we truly love ourselves. Therefore, centering on God and his love for us allows us to better love ourselves and others, as well as being in a position to receive love from others.

    2. We can only offer an open house if we are often home – which can only happen if we are not often absent / busy. This has been one of the most challenging yet satisfying things we have had to wrestle with over the past 3 years since leaving the life of working full-time in a big church. We choose to be very un-busy. This means we spend most nights at home – sometimes with people, sometimes not… but the door is open if needed.

    Allie, I know you won’t get the wrong impression because you know us well, but others might think we are claiming to be totally centred, highly spiritual, deeply sacrificial – martyrs. May others be assured, much of what I am describing is our heart’s desire and well and truly “under constant construction” 🙂

    btw – i do think a dominant “version” of hospitality that we personally have been sold in the past is one that is not helpful – ie, the one of the perfect host who has to do everything with excellence, because “excellence inspires people and honours God”. Personally I think this has got knobs all over it and is a way we justify trying to one-up each other with outrageous displays of exuberance and self-indulgence (ahhhhhh the days of VIP rooms and $500 blocks of Margaret River chocolate? 😉 )

  33. Ha! How funny – the gig with the chocolate is a perfect example of ‘welcome but ignored!’.

    Thanks heaps, luv ya

    😉 🙂 😉 😉 (got the hang of it!)

  34. I’ve coached footy with a guy for a few years now, he’s not from any church or anything close to it. Dave and His wife are incredible hosts and extremely inviting and hospitable and caring without being perfect in any way. Now and then I’ll drop in and they’ll be more than pleased to see myself or the family and offer us a drink etc. The interesting thing is that often when we go there other people, either adults or kids will come and go through that house and it’s as if it’s not just theirs, it’s for anyone to enjoy.

    Through this family I have seen how real community can work and where you can see a community of ‘meeting together constantly and sharing everything they had’ types of things happening.

    I think we probably have become too possessive of our stuff, our lifestyle, our space in Australia to the detriment of true community and possibly to seeing true Christlike character in the flesh.

  35. Prescriptions are dangerous.

    You gotta do what you can with what you’ve got and with who you are.

    That includes looking after the needs (for loud or quiet) of a spouse and the relational needs of kids at different stages of development.

    Hospitality with people you don’t know well is always more intensive ie, yo gotta do more to construct the space, conversation, the time that will be spent etc. With people you know really well, all things being equal, they’ll get up at some point and make themselves a cuppa instead of waiting for you to make it – it’s at that point that the house is literally a shared space.

    Different reasons to do different stuff with different people.

    Does it have to be this hard? I wonder why it is? Are we too busy looking for THE answer to a question with multiple answers?

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