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pondering hospitality

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : August 8, 2006

Homeless in NYC 10x7x6.jpgWhat do you need to know about a person before you invite them to stay in your house? Hospitality is a central, non-negotiable practice for all Christians. But how hospitable? How well do you have to know someone before you offer them a bed for the night? For a month? For longer? How do the answers to those last two questions change when there are children in the house?

The story of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 is pretty provokative. Even if you take the most conservative interpretation–that the “least of these” are disciples of Christ–one still has to grapple with the reality that even those who come in the name of Christ can be strangers. Right now I have a homeless aquaintence who is a Christian and is coming off of treatment who needs a place to stay and help getting his life together. If I take Matthew 25 seriously, is it enough to help him find some impersonal transitional housing? Is it ok to “outsource” hospitality? There is a 6 year old and an infant in our house. Does that mean he can’t stay with us at all? Do we make him do a background check and THEN let him stay with us for a while?

Anyone want to weigh in on this stuff?

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4 Responses to “pondering hospitality”

  1. Jamie on August 8th, 2006 5:42 pm

    I can only share from my personal experiences. My dad used to bring home hitch-hikers for dinner when I was little and I loved it, however it always caused extreme tension between my mother and father as they were at odds on this topic and I was fully aware of that. A few years ago, when I returned to the states after doing mission work, I had nowhere to live. Two different couples worked together to provide me a room in their homes, meals, transportation and a family that loved me as one of their own. This witness forever changed my life. However, I was 18, female, and returning from a year of mission work abroad. May God grant you wisdom.

  2. Kyle Potter on August 8th, 2006 6:51 pm

    Christine Pohl deals with this a little, ways of making the stranger “less strange” and making hospitality more public. Unfortunately, I just have a name, but no idea how to deal with it in such a situation. It may be that sometimes, some household really aren’t able to offer any kind of hospitality to anybody in a thoroughly indiscriminate way.

  3. JVD on August 8th, 2006 7:31 pm

    No, but you are making me think about it.

    Well yes I have a few thoughts - hospitality comes in many forms. Danielle and I hosted a student in a distance seminary program for 1 month per year for the past three years. We knew the person and felt it was our way of helping support him, and the education he was getting.

    When the time came for him to graduate, he bought us a huge gift which we were not expecting, not why we did it, but it sure was nice to get.

    I don’t know if that helps. We have to be wise with who we open our doors for, all factors must be considered. Will that person be alone? Will they do ok with a child around?

    You have to look at the greatest good for the greatest amount of people… at least that is one way of looking at it - Go with your gut, pray, act. JVD

  4. Jeff on August 9th, 2006 1:51 pm

    All I can say after years of struggling with this sort of thing is I don’t believe there is any set “rule” you can follow. You have to learn to listen to the Holy Spirit in each and every case - and then obey. Talk about uncomfortable!

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