Last updated on December 9th, 2020 at 06:34 am
Right after my sister read my first Bible lesson on hospitality, she emailed me and said, “I am sorry my family is going to cause you stress when we visit.” I had to laugh because she understands my stress and anxiety better than anyone and knows that it is not personal.
However, it also caused me to stop and think about how others might have perceived the lesson. So, here is my disclaimer to this series on hospitality. If you have ever been invited to my house, I wanted you to come. I actually love visiting with people!
However, because of my anxiety and obsessive cleanliness, sometimes hospitality is difficult for me. This anxiety and obsessiveness are what my sister is referring to and is what had prompted me to write the lesson in the first place.
I know many people who struggle with depression, anxiety, OCD, or severe stress, especially when it comes to interacting with other people or allowing people into their homes. The purpose of this series is to show that even though it may be hard for us to show hospitality, it is our duty as Christians and good human beings to do so anyway.
Kind, Generous, and Hospitable
One of my favorite books is Persuasion by Jane Austen. I love the language and the way Ms. Austen turns phrases and how she uses words. However, it is more than that.
Persuasion is about a young lady (Anne) who does not get a real say in her life. She spends many days visiting with others, as first one group claims her as useful to them and then another.
Many people see this book as simply another Austen love story, without depth or insight. I strongly disagree. This story is about devotion to duty, true friendship, but most of all, it is about hospitality to others.
There are many great lines in this story, but here is a line that always makes me stop and ponder.
“Anne had not wanted this visit…to learn that a removal from one set of people to another…will often include a total change of conversation, opinion, and idea.” (Austen 29) The paragraph goes on to say that Anne wished her family could see and understand how they were not considered important outside their own family home.
And that, I think, sums up why this book is so great. It is a reminder that we are only as important as we are kind, generous, and hospitable. If we are not kind, generous, and hospitable, then we are only important in our own eyes. So how can we be kind, generous, and hospitable to others? Let us talk about ways we can do this with visitors in our home.
Showing Hospitality to Visitors
If you remember in the first lesson, I differentiated between guests and visitors in this way: guests are those who come to your home for a party, get-together, tea, or other such short gathering and visitors are those who come to your house to stay for an extended length of time (several days to several months).
For this lesson, I want to talk about hospitality to visitors. I will address five important tips that will make our visitors feel at home when they are staying with us.
The Five Tips
1. Know your visitors.
Here you might say, “Um, Sabra, they are my visitors. Of course, I know them!” However, even people we have known for years change their likes and habits.
Before the visitors arrive, find out what they like to eat or if they are on a restricted diet. Be sure and ask about allergies in general, but especially food allergies. Do not serve “weird” or exotic foods unless you know they like them.
If your household is on a special diet, do not force this on your visitors. If they want more information, feel free to share, but do not overwhelm them with information that they may not care to learn.
Even if you think your pets and/or children are awesome, remember that your visitors may not see them in quite the same light. If they want to play with either, that is great, but do not expect them to devote large amounts of attention to them.
Grandparents might be an exception to this rule, however, do not expect Grandma to become a babysitter for her entire stay while you catch up on all those things you need to do.
2. Clean your bathroom.
I will admit that I do not always keep my personal bathroom pristine, but my guest bathroom is kept in great condition. Have you ever had to use someone’s bathroom and upon walking inside realized you did not actually want to touch anything?
There is nothing more disgusting than a bathroom with laundry/dirty towels piled everywhere and dirt, hair, and other grime coating all the surfaces. When you know people are coming, at least clean the bathroom!
Keep fresh towels for your visitors and let them know where the extras are kept. A couple of days before your visitors arrive, give your towels a good sniff to make sure they do not stink. Sometimes when linen sits in a closet too long, they can become musty in smell.
This also goes the other way. Those Gain Flings you think smell so awesome? Your guest may not think so! It is best to wash guest towels and sheets in a “free and clear” detergent. Too many people have some sort of allergies for any of us to make an assumption that our “smell’ums” are great!
It is also a courtesy to your guest to keep a towel rack empty for them to hang used towels on. I will admit, I forget this one sometimes. I usually keep my fancy towels in the guest bath. However, visitors do not need to wonder which towels are okay to use and since they could use the extra rack, it is best to remove the fancy towels when visitors are present.
Place extra toilet paper in the bathroom and make sure your visitors know where it is. It is also a good idea to keep soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, etc. on hand in case your visitors forget something.
3. Make a comfortable room.
Here again, visitors would rather not sleep in a dirty room. Make sure it is clutter-free. If you are like me, your guest room is also where you keep all your extra stuff when it is not being used. Even if you use the room for storage, make sure the room itself does not look cluttered and that there are extra drawers and closet space for the visitors.
If visitors need to sleep in your child’s room, try to clear out a bit of space in the closet for their clothes. If you will still need to use the room occasionally, make sure your visitors are aware of this in the beginning and alert them before you go in.
Also, let your child(ren) know that someone else will be occupying their room for a while and they need to stay out. Under no circumstances should your children be allowed to play in or dig through your visitor’s belongings! You may laugh when you read that thinking “who would do that”, but it has actually happened to us at someone else’s house.
Make up the bed with fresh sheets a couple of days before the visitors arrive. Give them a sniff the same as with the towels. Make sure they do not stink, whether it is “good” stink or bad stink.
I would recommend going into your guest room a couple of nights before your visitors arrive. Lay on the bed for a moment (or maybe even sleep there) and really look around. Make sure there are no weird smells in the room, that the temperature is good, and there is not excessive light shining in the windows (Sorry about that, Crystal).
Place extra blankets and a fan in the room. When your visitors arrive, show them where extra drawers, hangers, and outlets for charging electronic devices are located.
4. Give them a tour.
After my visitors have arrived and settled into their rooms, I like to show them around the house. This helps them feel more at home. Show visitors where your laundry room is located and allow time for them to do laundry if needed.
Take them to the kitchen and show them where to get ice and water. Point out where cups, plates, and silverware are located. If you want to provide snacks, have those accessible.
Set out tea, coffee, and/or hot chocolate by the coffee maker. Show them the coffee maker and how to operate it. Place creamer, sugar, and honey in a convenient location.
Have a nightlight in the main area of the house to help guide someone if they need something in the night. If there are children with the visitors, I also do a short “what to do in an emergency talk”.
5. Keep them informed.
Nobody likes to feel lost and there is nothing worse than sitting around wondering what is going on. Tell your visitors the family’s schedule: working hours, sleeping hours, mealtimes. This helps them know what to expect and allows them to set their own schedule.
Tell them about the local attractions. Offer to show them or allow them to go on their own. Provide directions if necessary. I also like to give them a “heads up” on any local traditions. For instance, if your town is small and they find anyone driving around after 10 pm suspicious, let your visitors know to stick with direct routes to and from main roads. (True, and somewhat funny, story!)
Let your visitors know that they are welcome to eat all their meals with you but that you will not be offended if they want to try out a local restaurant. At our house, we try to set one meal where we treat our visitors to a special dinner out, but if this is not in your budget do not feel obligated to do so.
Bible View on Hospitality to Visitors
Now that we have discussed five important tips that will make our visitors feel at home when they are staying with us, let’s talk about what the Bible says about visitors in our home.
There are many passages that talk about people visiting one another, but often only for a day or a meal, which we will cover in the next lesson. The stories that talk about people visiting for longer periods of time are harder to find. However, there is one story that exemplifies the kind of hospitality that we want to show to our visitors.
Abraham’s Servant Visits Abraham’s Relatives (Genesis 24)
This is an interesting story about Abraham sending his servant to find a bride for his son. Most of the time, the story is about Rebekah and her response to the servant and her willingness to go and be a bride for Isaac.
However, I want you to notice especially verse 31. Here Rebekah’s brother Laban comes out to meet the servant. Notice his words. “Come, you who are blessed by the Lord. Why are you standing out here? I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.” (NIV)
Just like that. No hesitation. No making excuses. When Laban saw this man that had traveled far from the house of a relative it was, “Come on in. The house is ready for you.” Talk about hospitality to visitors! Apparently, this house had it.
When it is harder to be hospitable
As I have been in the process of writing this post, there have been several events that have happened in our lives. My sweet mom-in-law, who has been terminally ill for the past 18 months, passed away.
When recalling all the wonderful things about her, I had to remember how hospitable she always was. Even in her worst days, she was asking, “How did you sleep? Do you need something to eat?” Her concern was always for those visiting her home even when we were there to take care of her instead.
Right after arriving home from this heart-wrenching event, coronavirus reached the United States. People begin to talk about staying home and stores began to run low on supplies. The first human response is to say, “Stay away from me and mine.” Also, you think first about how you can take care of your family.
A week into this and my brother calls. He wanted to come to visit in order to get away from a personal situation he is struggling with. My first response was, “Only if you don’t have the corona.” It was kind of a joke but it made me pause.
Here I was in the middle of writing a lesson on hospitality and this is my response to one of my siblings who needs some encouragement? I told him to come on down.
What can we do?
However, this does bring up a valid concern. How do you show hospitality when there are outside forces that might make it more difficult?
I was watching the news this afternoon and I think I heard the answer. The news team was talking about a group in Germany who have decided that being kind to their neighbors is more important than taking care of themselves.
They are running errands and buying groceries for those who are sick and cannot leave their homes. They are also watching the children of those who need to go to work so that they will not be exposed to the virus.
Sometimes it is easy to want to hide away in our safe places, our sanctuaries, and not invite visitors inside. It can be hard to share our space with people, even those we love very much. It can also be hard to show hospitality to others around us outside of our homes.
But we still need to be kind, generous, and hospitable to others. Otherwise, we lose touch with who we are and may begin to feel more important than we really are. We need to be like Laban and be ready to immediately say, “Come on in. We are all ready for you to visit!”
What do you think? Is it difficult to be hospitable, especially during a time of uncertainty? Do you have ideas to add to my lists of tips? I would love to see your comments below!
Austen, Jane. Persuasion. Dover Publications Inc, 1997.
Are you interested in using this for a Bible study? Sign up below and I will send you 10 questions to accompany the post, as well as a printable copy of this post.