The Gospel Doesn’t Always Have to Come with a House Key

The power of introverted hospitality in an extroverted world of church ministry.

Perhaps the most difficult area for me as an introverted Christian woman and pastor’s wife has been the biblical call to hospitality and our culture’s interpretation of this calling.

Popular Christian discussions of hospitality are often centered around women, especially homemakers, and include strikingly extroverted elements of actively inviting over neighbors and strangers, making meals for a crowd, instituting an open-door policy, and embracing noise and mess.

While I have benefitted from and been challenged by such views, they often feel like impossible standards I will never be able to meet.

But then I remember that Jesus had no home on earth to invite others into. When he sat with the woman at the well or crossed the sea to purge a single man of his demons, he wasn’t trying hard to attract crowds at a neighborhood block party. Sometimes, no one could find him—he was off on his own, displaying suspiciously introvert-like tendencies.

And yet he embodied hospitality—which translates from the Greek to love of the stranger—in everything he did, to everyone he met.

Henri Nouwen wrote in Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life that the term hospitality “should not be limited to its literal sense of receiving a stranger in the house—although it is important never to forget or neglect that!—but as a fundamental attitude toward our fellow human being, which can be expressed in a great variety of ways.”

When we remember Jesus, the concept of hospitality breaks out of its enclosed husk and is revealed for what it truly is: the eyes to see the marginalized and lonely, the heart to embrace those in pain, the ability to offer an unhurried and loving presence in …

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