Friday, October 18, 2019

The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield

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.



Carol said...

It made me feel a little uncomfortable as well but having read The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert beforehand it gave it some balance. It was radical hospitality that opened the way for her to come to Christ. The drug addict stuff freaked me out a bit!

Farm Girl said...

I listened to the audio book. I enjoyed it and yes, I was very uncomfortable. My home has a revolving door most of the time, and yet, I felt like such a slacker.
It is good and filled with many wonderful ideas. Thanks for sharing.

Sara at Come Away With Me said...

I'm sure I could learn a lot from this book. Feeling convicted just reading your review, inhospitable introvert that I am! ;-)

Carol said...

As the other Carol said, reading the story of her conversion helps to balance the ideas in this book. I was so impressed with the pastor & his wife that opened their home to her. They were in their 70's but I didn't get the impression they practiced hospitality the way she does - sort of open slather, but intentional nevertheless.

Barbara Harper said...

After commenting about this one on your reading read post, I thought I should come over and read your review to find out more about it. I probably should read it. Being an introvert is one of my biggest challenges to hospitality, so I'd be interested in what she said about that. I agree hospitality is not just entertaining and we should invite people other than Christians as well as Christians. The woman I consider my main mentor (though we never used that word with each other) ministered to me primarily just by having me over a lot.