As a child, I always knew when we hoovered under the sofa that we were expecting visitors. Everyone would be frantically running around to be prepared for the deadline; the time we asked our guests to appear. I remember asking why we had to do all this preparation and instead why couldn’t we invite people into our normal life. This question was probably fuelled by the frustration of having to do chores but I still think that I had a point.
Hospitality has become entertainment. A time where we try to show our best side. While living in an affluent area of Glasgow, Scotland for a few years I became more aware of our individualistic western culture. It was a neighbourhood where people make appointments to see each other. Home was a sanctuary, a place of security and comfort. Not a place of sharing life with our neighbours. Our insecurities, fear of the unknown, and avoidance of possible awkward situations can leave us isolated and alone.
This attitude has shaped our view of charity. Charity is something we give money to so that the professionals can ‘fix’ whatever the problem is. Giving to charity means that we can get on with our own lives and not worry about the suffering of our global and local neighbours.
Can we do something more? Can we give with our money and our time? Can we invite people into our normal, raw, beautiful lives? Are we willing to learn what our neighbours can teach us?
This is what Craig Greenfield tackles in the next section of his book, Subversive Jesus.
“Jesus subverts the usual power structures. He undermines the status quo in a time when soup kitchens have replaced radical hospitality in our own homes. He neither leaves folks to fend for themselves individually nor allows his followers to engage in a one-way act of charity that would set them up as benefactors and beneficiaries. Instead, he asks them to share.”
Living now in this South African culture, where life is shared, where people are always visiting, and where there is need can be daunting, confusing and draining. At the same time it is also life-giving, humbling, and affirming.
Craig importantly reflects on boundaries, which are necessary for healthy and sustainable hospitality.
“To be inclusive you must learn to be exclusive. In order to be truly inclusive and welcoming to those on the margins, there will be times when you must be exclusive – to shut the door and take care of yourself – so you have something to give next time. Or you may need to say no to one person so you can welcome others. To be inclusive, we must ask God for the wisdom to know when to be exclusive.”
Debbie and I have had to learn how to balance saying yes and saying no. Being more introverted, I need time alone to recharge. Understanding this about myself has been vital for our life in Soshanguve. We have put structures in place so that we can live a healthy balanced life. For example, on our day off we often leave the township and go for good coffee in the city. Or we might head into nature to unwind. We need regular holidays to relax and re-energise. We need to literally shut the door of our home sometimes so that we can focus on life as a family.
Hospitality is something that we can all do. We can all create a safe space for people to be themselves. If it’s helpful for you to have a tidy house then do it. Just remember that we don’t have to be perfect people to let others in. And may you and your neighbours experience the fullness that sharing life brings.