The last two Thursdays I have focused on how to think about life when you’re in the midst of transition and some things you can do to weather transition well. I’d like to direct this final post in the series at those of you who are not in transition, but find yourselves in a place (like, say, the University setting!) where there are new folks around on a pretty regular basis, particularly during this time of the year.
For seven years, we attended a church in Cambridge, MA that was situated between Harvard and MIT. Every September, the pews were full of new faces. Every summer, we attended many a good-bye party for those moving on to their post graduate school adventures. There was much joy in welcoming those new folks and much heartache at the farewells. And you know what’s happened to us in Pittsburgh? We’ve joined a church in the heart of the University center of town, practically on University of Pittsburgh’s campus, finding ourselves experiencing exactly the same thing here as we did in Cambridge!
As members of both congregations, the opportunities to practice hospitality (as Paul encourages in Romans 12:13) are endless. Let’s take a quick look at that passage in Romans 12, where Paul is beginning to wrap up his letter and seems to want to get in a bunch of thoughts before closing.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:9-13
The first several verses seem to be such weighty reminders, then he closes the paragraph with practice hospitality. I think it is important to note that this is not a list of spiritual gifts. Paul instructs all the Roman Christians to practice hospitality. I firmly believe he would say the same to us today, if addressing a letter to Emerging Scholars.
But c’mon, life is really busy, isn’t it? Most of us barely have enough time for our current friends, let alone time to reach out to anyone else!
The Scriptures say: practice hospitality.
Since that is so, how can we integrate hospitality into our lives, so it becomes part of who we are? I’d like to suggest keeping these three things in mind:
- Hospitality is not complicated.
- Hospitality requires some intentionality.
- Hospitality is worth it.
First, hospitality is not complicated. It is not. Trying to be Martha Stewart when you are not Martha Stewart? That’s complicated. Being you and sharing who you are and what you have with others? That’s not. Hospitality is an expression of the second greatest commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. When you meet someone new to your lab, church, or neighborhood, think to yourself, How would I want to be welcomed and treated? And go and do likewise! For example, in our home, I’m the one who will make brownies and take the kids across the street to meet a new neighbor. I grew up doing things like this and while it still makes me nervous every time, I know it’s right and how I would want to be greeted when moving into a new area. My husband, on the other hand, is able to converse on a variety of topics and remembers a lot about people, he loves to extend hospitality through good conversation and connecting people to other people, places, or things that would benefit them as they adjust to a new place. Knowing yourself, what are some simple and natural ways you can extend hospitality to someone in transition?
Hospitality is not complicated, but hospitality requires some intentionality. To care well for others, we need to think about them and how we can love them as ourselves. Are there events coming up on campus or in the area to which you could invite them? Could you have them into your home for dinner? Can you clear your schedule after church every Sunday, to make sure you can have lunch with a new person, couple, or family you meet that day? Hospitality is not about having a particular type of home or meal, it has much more to do with having an open heart. How can you more intentionally open your heart and make space in your life to extend hospitality to someone in the midst of transition?
Finally, hospitality is worth it! When you practice hospitality several things happen: God is glorified, you are changed, others are blessed. Seeing as Paul encouraged the Romans to practice hospitality and it is a way we can love our neighbor as ourselves, God is glorified when we respond to His word and practically love others by opening our hearts and lives to them. We also begin to change as we let a little of ourselves die, so we can be life-giving for another; it is that much easier the next time! As I mentioned, it always makes me nervous to knock on a stranger’s door, but I have many of these experiences in my memory and none has ever been bad. We’re stretched as we reach out in response to God’s goodness to us. Stretching is good, friends! And hospitality is a blessing. You will not become fast friends with everyone to whom you extend hospitality, but that bit of kindness can make such a huge difference for someone navigating new waters. On the other hand, you may be at the start of a deep and lasting relationship when engaging in that initial awkward and uncomfortable conversation with a new person after church or class! How have you seen hospitality honor God, change you, and/or bless another in your life?
Hospitality is not complicated, requires some forethought, and is worth every bit of effort. Will you consider the questions above and ask God to open your eyes to opportunities that come your way, even today, to practice hospitality? I’d love to hear stories of how you extend hospitality in your context or how God used another’s hospitality to really make a difference for you in a new situation; please share in the comments.
God bless you and others through you in this new academic year!
About the author:
While Heather would not likely use the word scholar to describe herself, she has always been surrounded by them. Raised by an academic father and then marrying an academic, she has been connected to several university communities throughout her lifetime. During her undergraduate days at Carnegie Mellon University, she was involved with InterVarsity, serving in many capacities, including one year as chapter President. After completing a degree in Spanish, she taught high school for a couple of years and spent a short time as a Volunteer Staff with InterVarsity at MIT. Currently she resides in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband, Colin, and their three children, Elizabeth (8), Brian (4), and Katherine (6 mo.). Most of her time is spent caring for the family and homeschooling, but in her free time she writes at Life in the Valley and dreams of one day being a speaker/Bible teacher for women.