On Mission – Hospitality in our Neighborhoods

One of the things that is commonly derided about suburbia is the isolationism that is so prevalent.  Although we want greater connection and community with our neighbors, in reality we live disconnected lives; isolated from our neighbors.

I think there are a number of causes for this sense of isolation that exists in suburbia, but as I was reading some other blogs about missional living (by the way, we encourage you not to limit you blog reading just to Roots Run Deep – there are many excellent blogs that have been having the “missional living” discussion for a long time – in fact, Joe will be providing a top ten list of missional blogs on Friday – be looking for that)…anyways, as I was reading through some of those other blogs, I ran across the idea that we need to consider what strengths exist in suburbia in order to use those strengths to attack the issue of isolation.

One of the strengths (upsides) of suburbia is housing.  Most of us live in homes that would be considered mansions by 99% of the world.  Whether you are in a one bedroom apartment or a single family home, there is a good chance that the size of your home would be jaw-dropping for those living in the inner city, or those living in the villages of rural Africa.

Sometimes we blame the suburban single-family home as one of the primary reasons for the isolation in suburbia.  This may be true; however, is it possible that this object that is one of the primary reasons for our isolation could also be one of our greatest tools to combat isolation?  Might we consider ways to utilize our homes to tackle the tendency towards isolation and individualism?

What I’m thinking about in particular is practicing the biblical concept of hospitality.  Noah Webster’s Dictionary defines “hospitable” as:

(n.) Reception and entertainment of strangers or guests without reward, or with kind and generous liberality.

Hospitality is most certainly a biblical concept.  Scriptures teach us the following about the concept of hospitality…

  • it should be practiced among believers (1 John 4:9, 3 John 1:8, Romans 16:23, Romans 12:13)
  • it is a requirement for church elders (1 Timothy 1:2, Titus 1:8)
  • it is a characteristic of “widows in deed” (1 Timothy 5:10)
  • it was an attribute for which the islanders of Malta were praised after Paul was ship-wrecked there for three months (Acts 28:7-10)
  • Jesus tells us to humbly accept hospitality from others (Luke 10:7, Matt. 10:10)
  • we shouldn’t neglect showing hospitality to strangers (Hebrews 13:2)

Beyond these New Testament teachings on the concept of hospitality, we also see it throughout the Old Testament.  Consider:

  • God’s hospitality toward Adam and Eve in the Garden.  He provided for their every need and made sure that they were comfortable, and given space to enjoy Creation and their relationship with Him
  • God’s commands to His people regarding strangers (see Leviticus 19:9-10, 33-34; Deuteronomy 10:18-19 as a start).  The Israelites were commanded by God to provide food to strangers travelling through their lands, to love the alien living near them as if they were native born, and to follow His example in not showing partiality towards anyone, but instead giving food, shelter, and clothing to the fatherless, widows, and aliens.
  • How the Israelites were recipients of hospitality.  Consider the treatment Jacob and his family received when they were welcomed into Egypt during the famine.  Consider the reception given to the Israelite spies by Rahab in Jericho.

 But most importantly, consider Jesus’ teachings of hospitality.  He

 “…calls the weary to himself, feeds the hungry, mends the broken, eats with      sinners and tax collectors, washes his disciples’ feet…and ultimately gives his life to cleanse us from sin, deal with our unbelief and provide a way and place for us to rest.  He lives, loves, obeys, works, dies and rises again so that we might find a place of rest, renewal and recreation…ultimately so that we might be about God’s      purposes – saved to be His Hospitable People” (from Missional Musings)

What can we learn from this diverse collection of Biblical teachings on the concept of hospitality, and more importantly, how can we apply them?

What if we began to recognize that our home is a resource provided by God’s sovereignty that must be stewarded just as our finances must be stewarded?  What if we began to utilize our homes as tools to be employed in the Missio Dei?  What if instead of being centers of isolation and individualism, our homes became outposts of hospitality and connection?

In order for this to happen, we may need to modify how we think about our time and our space.  Our time is not our own, it is God’s…given to us to be stewarded in the mission of making disciples of all nations.  Our space (home) is not our own, it is God’s…given to us to be stewarded for God’s kingdom purposes.

Have neighbors over for meals.  Have a Christmas party at your house.  Enjoy a backyard barbecue with folks in your subdivision.  Have the families from your kid’s little league team over for an afternoon of watching football on TV.  Look for ways to make your home a place of refuge for those needing help.  Consider how to ensure that your house becomes “that house” at which the kids in the neighborhood want to come and hang out. 

Susan and I haven’t exactly figured this out yet, but we’re trying.  What are some ways you’ve found to be effective in stewarding your home for the Gospel?  Is this a new concept to you?  What barriers stand in the way of us living this out? 

Here beginneth the discussion……

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6 thoughts on “On Mission – Hospitality in our Neighborhoods

  1. Yesterday at the grocery store we saw someone we knew. We said hello and she remarked on how big the boys had gotten and how she remembered them being so much smaller.

    The person has lived across the street from us for 10 years and still lives there, yet she acted as if we had not seen her in years!

    This is not an indictment on her, she is ill and rarely leaves her home. It is however an indictment on us. What have we done for her? Not enough.

    Great post Ken, very convicting and timely.

    • I’m right there with you, Joe. We’ve got neighbors across the street that we knoe nothing more than their names and what they do for a living. There’s a family 2 doors down from them we’ve never even met! Shame on us!

      But, there’s a new opportunity for us. We just saw that some other new neighbors down the street (just recently moved in), just put up “It’s a Girl” balloons on their mailbox. Here’s our open invitation. Brand new parents ALWAYS need food and diapers.

      I think it just begins with being faithful in the little things. Let’s be accountable to one another to engage with these two families!

  2. Great post! I really needed to read this! Christmas is a great time to meet Or go see your neighbors you haven’t seen in a while. I think I’ll bake up some goodies and go see them. I don’t think I’m up for carroling this year, but that could be a good way too!

  3. Great idea Cindy! Caroling is fun too. We did that in a neigfhborhood near the church last year, and a cool thing happened. Two or three of the families we “caroled”, went and grabbed their coats, and walked the rest of the neighborhood with us. That led to some discussions with them….not intentionally gospel conversations, but where relationships were initiated.

    I think the main thing is being available and intentional. I’ll pray for your cookie-baking/neighbor-meeting plan.

    Grace!

  4. Joe, the boys and I always get small gifts to bring to our neighbors every year. Christmas is always tight for us and we seem to have the exact same discussion each season, “is this really important?” It never seems to mean much when we hand them out. But it does give us the chance to interject ourselves into their lives if only for one day a year. I am reminded each time we discuss whether or not we can afford/or should do this gift to our neighbors that we never know what God will use in His infinite knowledge and power. We may feel that it is small, but so was the little boy’s lunch that in the hands of Jesus fed thousands.

  5. Pingback: Missional Fail « Roots Run Deep

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