On my most recent summer vacation, I read a book that completely revolutionized my thinking. Books like these are not too common, and when they happen, I feel like I want to re-read them immediately to soak in everything I might have missed the first time. Indeed, I felt like I had been thirsting for the things this book said for too long, and it was with great joy that I drank them up.
The book was The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield, and I one hundred percent recommend it. My heart was convicted and inspired by it – and every reason she gave for radically ordinary hospitality was compelling and water to a thirsty soul – a soul thirsty for community and meaningful relationships.
But rather than complain about the lack of those things, I realized I need to be a part of the solution for creating it. I need to be eager to share my home, time, and resources to invite that Gospel-centered community into my midst.
So how does she describe this radically ordinary hospitality and what makes it so compelling? She starts by saying,
Radical means ‘change from the root’ and conjures up political and social upheaval and the kind of change that normally scares the pants off conservative Christians. Ordinary means ‘everyday,’ ‘commonplace,’ ‘predictable,’ ‘reliable,’ and ‘regular.’ And spiritual warfare is what we engage in when temptation is clobbering us again, and Satan is winning, tearing us, our Christian witness, and our families apart. Only in the Jesus paradox do these incongruous ideas come together. And come together they must.
She also says this,
We must be willing to practice hospitality as both host and guest, and we must see how the principle of both giving and receiving builds a community and glorifies God […] God calls Christians to practice hospitality in order to build loving Christian communities, to build nightly table fellowship with fellow image bearers, to ease the pain of orphanhood, widowhood, and prison, to be qualified as elders in the church, and to be good and faithful stewards of what God has given to us in the person, work, example, obedience, and suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ.
God calls us to practice hospitality as a daily way of life, not as an occasional activity when time and finance allow. Radically ordinary hospitality means this: God promises to put the lonely in families (Ps. 68:6), and he intends to use your house as living proof.
Throughout the book, Butterfield challenges all of us as believers to practice this kind of hospitality no matter what our living situation might be – dorm room, apartment, small house, big house. It doesn’t have to be fancy – mismatched dishes are fine, assorted types of seating are expected, and ordinary food like soup and rice and beans are typical fare.
But she makes it clear that radically ordinary hospitality isn’t “entertaining” or a now and again occasion. On the contrary, it’s daily sharing life with other believers and unbelievers, because sharing life together in our homes is what draws people to Christ and helps all of us grow in faith. This is Butterfield’s salvation story – she spent two years sharing life in the home of a pastor and his wife who led her to the Lord before ever stepping foot inside a church.
She also talks about how this kind of hospitality is a way to help brothers and sisters in Christ in their struggle against sin –
Know that someone is spared another spiral binge of pornography because he is instead playing Connect Four with you or walking the dogs or jumping on the trampoline. Know that these small things that you may take for granted have been the Lord’s appointed way of escape for a brother or sister. Know that someone is spared the fear and darkness of depression because she is needed at your house, always on the Lord’s Day, the day she is never alone but instead safely in community where her place at the table is needed and necessary and relied upon.
It’s being a safe place to grieve when someone has lost a loved one. It’s being a place of support when life crisis or a difficult life stage is upon someone else. It’s being ready to share the Word of God and prayer with someone when they don’t know where to turn to next. It’s all of this and more because radically ordinary hospitality has an open door policy – not a “maybe in a few weeks when I check my calendar” policy.
So how does this begin? Butterfield says in her book, “When it comes to change, Kent [her husband] is fond of reminding us that we don’t start with relationships or culture or things out there. We start with ourselves. We start where we are. We start as soon as we feel convicted by our sin. We start regardless of what the people around us do or don’t do.”
And so I stand looking at my own life – how I often fill up my schedule so much that I don’t have time to have an open door. Or how I let my own selfishness about “it’s too much work” curb me from having people over. Or how I feel too scared to speak Gospel truths when someone clearly needs to hear them.
And this is the sin I must repent of and ask God to give me wisdom and grace on how to change. And as soon as I started praying, He answered with ideas for how to start practicing this radically ordinary hospitality.
The first thing that came to mind are the principles around which I want to shape my home – and my classroom – that are based on this idea of radically ordinary hospitality. So I made a list of ten principles, based on the popular “In This Home We …” motif, which I want to hang on my wall to daily remind myself of what I’m committing to.
I modified it just a bit to fit my classroom, but they’re basically the same principles, and I want the reminder to be present and shape the way my classroom functions as well.
From there, I came up with two ideas [starting slowly so as not to overwhelm myself at first] with having weekly “open door” nights for various people in my life to practice that daily hospitality wherein we share life together. With that, Rosaria Butterfield suggested knowing our limits and planning ahead for them. So I’ll sit down and plan out a few simple recipes to have on rotation and make up ahead of time so that the food part won’t stress me out (it generally does when I come home tired from work).
Ultimately, I want my home to be a safe haven for others – so that when a friend calls me up and asks if she can come over and cry with me on my couch, I can say yes without hesitation. I want it to be such a regular event to share dinner with people at my house that they don’t feel like they’re intruding or impeding on my busy schedule. I want them to feel at home walking through my front door as they do walking through their own.
And as I work toward a mindset shift in hospitality, I pray for grace for myself and others and a release from expectations that it should go “a certain way.” I pray for a genuine desire to love others well instead of viewing it as checklist of things to do. I pray for hope for others through my one small step of change.
Because as Butterfield ended her book –
That is the nuts and bolts of it, yes? Starting with you and me and our open door and our dinner table and our house key poised for the giving. This is not complex. Radically ordinary, daily Christianity is not PhD Christianity. The gospel coming with a house key is ABC Christianity. Radically ordinary and daily hospitality is the basic building block for vital Christian living. Start anywhere. But do start.
Amen. Can’t wait to begin.