There are, of course, other ways you can use your days, your time, your
money, and your home. But opening your front door and greeting neighbors
with soup, bread, and the words of Jesus are the most important.
Not since Open Heart, Open Home (Karen Burton Mains 1973), has there been a better "anti-hospitality" book than Butterfield's latest title, The Gospel Comes with a House Key. It is "anti" in the sense that it eschews modern ideas of perfect homes and perfect menus as the requirement for receiving guests. Hospitality is a dying art since few have perfect homes and those who have them would rather protect them than welcome in folks who might "ruin" them. The household that loves things too much and loves people too little cannot honor God through the practice of radically ordinary hospitality... Sometimes Christians tell me that they don't practice hospitality because they don't have enough space, dishes, or food. They fear that they do not have enough to give. This is a false fear that no one should heed. Hospitality shares what there is; that's all.It's not entertainment. It's not supposed to be.
Butterfield contends that authentic hospitality is the strongest witness we Christians can have. Let's face it: we have become unwelcome guests in this post-Christian world. Conservative Christianity is dismissed as irrelevant, irrational, discriminatory, and dangerous. To a world that mistrusts us, we must be transparently hospitable.
The ultimate purpose of opening our homes is so that others may come to know Christ. She warns against the two extremes of building protective walls (condemning those outside) or accepting everyone while ignoring sinful behavior, reinventing Christianity that fits nicely on the "coexist" bumper sticker, avoiding the cross and bowing to the idols of our day: consumerism and sexual autonomy.... We are not extending grace to people when we encourage them to sin against God. Grace always leads to Christ's atoning blood. Grace leads to repentance and obedience. Grace fulfills the law of God, in both heart and conduct. When we try to be more merciful than God, we put a millstone around the neck of the person we wish to help.
I appreciated her reminder that when Christians open their home to non-Christians, they lose the right to protect their reputations. Her own example of befriending a neighbor who turned out to be a drug dealer highlights some of the dilemmas they willingly faced to extend the love of Christ to him. I also appreciated her sharing about how she, an introvert, manages to have a house constantly full of people. Knowing your personality and your sensitivity does not excuse you from ministry. It means that you need to prepare for it differently than others might.
Lots of things in this book will make you uncomfortable. Because it's convicting. Because real hospitality is messy. And because sometimes it feels like Butterfield is tooting her own horn. (I honestly don't think she intends to, but I know from experience that it's hard to describe your ministry successes without sounding prideful).
I was greatly encouraged to worry less about impressing guests, and to simply share what we have with others.