Being a Guest and Thoughts on Hospitality - by Robert Nordling

Robert's family enjoy a backyard barbecue when he was a boy- 1965 hospitality

Hospitality has been a central part of who our family is since we started it - 33 years ago! It was just something we did; a way we ‘were’ as Christ followers - we welcome people; we are WITH people - at our own expense. Having people in our home has been a mainstay of our family life. When we eventually were able to purchase a home, we found houses with extra bedrooms knowing we would have a steady stream of guests with us and wanted to offer them a place among us. It has been a source of great joy for our family and has embedded a sense of the OTHER in our hearts and in the hearts of our sons.

However, in the past 10 years my take on hospitality has changed rather substantially - or perhaps more accurately - has been significantly added to. Whereas before I thought about it solely in terms of "ME hosting someone in MY home offering the very best I have to my guests"…somehow that has changed for me. When I am always the HOST, offering guests MY food, home, comfort etc. I retain the position of power. I am the one in charge, in a sense deciding (dictating?) how things will go, what will be served, eaten and even discussed around the table. It is a position of power that gives me comfort - and stretches me the least.

Robert and Cherith are hosted by South African friends

I think I’ve begun to learn over the past several years that when I am the guest, when I put my feet under someone else’s table, ceding power to them, and graciously and gratefully receiving what they serve to me - this is also a huge part of hospitality; perhaps the primary way to be hospitable. And frankly, this is the hospitality that Jesus ‘offered’ constantly - I’m going to your house (Zaccheus, Simon the Pharisee, Peter, Nicodemus…) and will sit at your table, eat your food - and bless you deeply. He received the offering of rare perfume given him; he received the food given him - even after the resurrection! Jesus seemed to be at home - in the homes of others.

Robert and Cherith are taken out for dinner by their son and enjoy an evening together in Chicago.

I won’t give up having people at my table - and serving my guests a wonderful meal, good beer and wine - and, hopefully, meaningful, inspiring conversations. But in equal parts I want to hear Jesus’ command to “GO!” and sit at someone else’s table, eat their food and drink their wine with gratitude. For at the end of all things, we will ALL be guests, not hosts, at someone else’s table - the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. We will eat His food and drink His wine and know a kind of hospitality offered to us at the expense of our host’s own life. And in humility and hilarity - we will celebrate together!