Welcome Others: So You’re New to Nashville?
Hospitality in your city… but what if it doesn’t feel like your city?
I just moved out to Nashville from California. I have cities that feel like mine — San Jose, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Los Gatos. If anyone came into those cities I would know just what to do. We could grab ramen at Kumako in Japan Town in San Jose or hike the Quicksilver trail in Almaden. We could get delicious pizza and cocktails at Oak and Rye in Los Gatos or hit up the Mission district in SF. And even better, I could invite people to my home, to be welcomed into my family’s Sunday night dinner, or afternoon yard games.
I am an extrovert, so I do love hanging with people, but I also know what it’s like to not have a place to go, a place to spend time with others. When new people would show up at church, I loved making sure they were included in lunch plans and holiday plans. Luckily, my mom was always one to cook for the masses with five kids in my family and now spouses and kids of their own, there is always extra food on the table. More often than not, my mom would task me with inviting others to our Sunday dinners just because she had too much food prepared.
I used to read about hospitality in the Bible and think, yeah I love that. I love inviting people in and making them feel welcome and giving them a place to belong. I loved that something so easy for me was showing the love of Jesus to others.
But what about when it’s not easy? Maybe for you, you’re an introvert and the last thing you want to do is invite someone you don’t know all that well over to your house or out to lunch. Maybe you feel like you don’t have nice enough dishes or furniture to host. Maybe your kids toys are scattered around the house and there’s laundry dumped on the couch and the trash still needs to be taken out. Maybe you feel like you don’t have the finances to make a meal for others or go out for one yourself.
Or maybe you just moved to a brand new city that doesn’t yet feel like home, your furniture and dishes and everything else you own still has yet to arrive from California after two months, and you don’t really know anyone, let alone who might be new at church because you’re new! Just me?
So what do we do when we don’t feel equipped to show hospitality?
I think the biblical answer is — we do it anyway. Maybe not the answer we want, but maybe it’s the answer we need.
Paul tells us in Romans 12:10-13, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.”
Paul isn’t listing spiritual gifts here. He isn’t even saying to just be hospitable. He actually says to practice it. And why? Because the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves. When Jesus was asked who our neighbor was He answered by describing how we become neighbors to others, by showing compassion and love (Luke 10). The Greek word Paul uses in Romans is philoxenia which means, “love of strangers.” When someone is a stranger to us, like the Samaritan on the road and we choose to show them love, we are not only practicing hospitality, but we are becoming neighbors.
Rosaria Butterfield in her book, The Gospel Comes with A House Key, says it like this, “that is what radically ordinary hospitality accomplishes in the Lord’s grace. It meets people as strangers and makes them neighbors; it meets neighbors and makes them family.”
Like most things, when we are too focused on ourselves, we sin. We choose ourselves over obedience to God. But if we can get our eyes off ourselves, stop worrying about how many chairs we have or what food we’ll serve and rather think of the stranger or neighbor or family and how we can offer what we currently have to help them feel loved, then we will start to practice hospitality.
This is my struggle because I like hosting fun dinner parties, which isn’t a sin, but it can distract from true hospitality. What I’ve come to realize is what I’ve often thought of as hospitality has really been entertainment. Not always, but sometimes. Why do I feel like I can’t show hospitality in this season? Because I don’t have my creature comforts, I don’t have my tools for entertainment. And I think this is exactly why God is pushing me towards hospitality now. So I can rethink what it means and start to understand what true hospitality is.
In the Psalms it says, “God sets the lonely in families,” (Psalm 68:6). What a beautiful promise that we can be a part of! Butterfield again in her book asks, “Have you ever thought that you, your house [or apartment or trailer or dorm], and your time are not your own but rather God’s ordained way of escape for someone?”
So whether you feel like this is your city, or you just live here, and whether you feel equipped or lacking. Be obedient. Start today, start with something small, just start. It’s a practice, it’s not something to be mastered or checked off a to-do list. It’s the way of Jesus who ate meals with sinners and called tax collectors to be disciples and spent time with Samaritan women at wells.
Will you follow in the way of Jesus today?