I have been learning what it is like to be truly hospitable these days. I used to think it was about the look. When I had people over I would frantically clean every nook and cranny of my house, then I would be sure to make some sort of fantastic meal that would (hopefully) make my guests rave endlessly. After dinner was eaten and digested, I would be sure to be the hostess with the mostess, offering tea and a freshly made dessert. My aim was to please.
Or was it?
To be honest, I think my aim was to impress more than it was to please. It was more about me than it was about my guests. Sure, I don’t think all of my intentions were bad as I have always been concerned about people feeling genuinely comfortable in my home. I truly desire that when people come into my home they experience peace and relief.
But, I also want to avoid any judgement someone might have of me by making every effort to appear like I have it all together. So the motivation for the frantic cooking and cleaning is more about how I will be perceived than it is about serving the people coming to my house by giving them a space free of clutter and dirt.
I believe true hospitality is serving others with whatever you have to offer and with no concern of what they might think of you based on the neatness of your house or tastiness of your meal (or behaviour of your children). Being hospitable is not about looking good, it is about loving others.
Hospitality looks like Mary at Jesus’s feet, not frenzied Martha in the kitchen (Luke 10:38-42). Mary was concerned about her guest. Martha cared about how she would be perceived. Making a meal is not bad or even sinful, but Martha went wrong by being angry at Mary because Mary chose to do something more important. You see what Martha was doing was good, but what Mary was doing was better. I want to entertain like Mary, and let Martha come out of me after my guests leave the house.
I hope to reflect Christ in my hospitality and look a little like a gazing Mary as I serve and care for my guests.
Photo Credit: Art by Diego Velazquez, found at wikipainting.org.