Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Men and Hospitality

Let's be honest.  Especially here in the West, if we think of hospitality at all, we immediately associate it with the female gender.  We've been socialized to think of the home as the female domain and even use the analogy of a bird in commonly calling the home "her nest". No matter that in almost all bird species, the male is just as active in building, maintaining and incubating the nest as his female partner, and in some bird species even more active and involved than the female!  This gender linking to hospitality generally prevails in our minds here in the West, even if the female works outside of the home most of the time, and/or has little interest or inclination towards it .  This paradigm has been changing in the last couple decades, and of course there are a few guys here and there who are the exception when it comes to this, but generally speaking, women are still given the role and expected to be the primary hospitality person over a man.  Of course, in most other areas of the world, hospitality is very much a man's role.

Biblically, hospitality is not gender specific. Both men and women are given the responsibility and charge to be hospitable in the Bible. The Bible gives clear examples of both men and women practicing it.
I believe, as in a healthy Biblical family where there is both a male/father and a female/mother who each have unique and specific contributions in the parenting and family life of the home, so in hospitality there is also a unique contribution that men and women make that is often quite different from each other in how it is practiced and the value it imparts to those it is dispensed upon. 

I believe that men are given the initial responsibility for hospitality and have a unique influence to create the atmosphere of welcome and inclusiveness for those who enter their home. 

I gave a number of examples of men in the Bible doing this in the first post with; Jesus (our final banquet host), Abraham, Lot, Jethro, Elders/Overseer's, and in addition there are more examples with;  Cornelius, Matthew, the Jailor (who invited Paul to his home), Publius (at Malta), the father with prodigal son, Phillip in Caesarea, and Joseph with his brothers.
These are all men (although a case could be made for women elders - but that's another post), who acted as hosts and initiated hospitality to welcome and serve those who were their guests. 

Men create the initial atmosphere of welcome, value, affirmation and the sense that you are important as a guest in their home in a special way that can be quite powerful.  Like an affirming father who opens heart and home, and says by word and action; "I am so glad your here!"
 It doesn't matter what age you are - you feel valued.  That's powerful hospitality!

Here are two examples from my own life to use as illustrations as to the value and importance of men in the initiation and operation of hospitality.  The first one illustrates the lack of hospitality, and the second one the impact of it operating fully.

Once we were invited by a man who was a leader in his region to his a home for a few days to minister. When we arrived, the male host had someone else meet us at the airport and take us back to his home.  We were shown our rooms by the wife, and then left on our own while she went about her responsibilities of that day.  After a few hours of sitting around entertaining ourselves, we were all pretty hungry and didn't know if we would be eating soon, or expected to fast.  Eventually we were told, "help yourselves to whatever you find", which was very uncomfortable for all of us as we searched through the kitchen spurred on by the rumbles of our stomachs. After finding some leftovers, we sat around eating and talking with each other because there was nothing else to do.  We saw the host himself only for a brief quick greeting at the end of the day, and then we wandered to our rooms to wonder if we had done something to offend our hosts. We imagined there must have been an emergency or something that came up to pull the attention of our hosts from us as guests, and silently hoped that soon we'd be shown the hospitality that would cause us to relax and feel welcomed. This was not to be.  Our team was uncomfortable in this home for the few days we stayed there even with the wife of the host doing her best to offer us some hospitality even while she was busy working a job outside of the home.  It felt like we were intruding, even though we had been invited. Ignored and left on our own for most of the time, we tried to find ways to minister and make use of our time there.  Some on the team found other lodging. Our hosts treated us in the antithesis of true hospitality.  I can only assume they believed that hospitality was to supply a room and kitchen.  Unfortunately, their actions communicated loudly to us that we were not worth their time and effort as invited guests. I have never been back.

In contrast, on another occasion we experienced the power of hospitality done right.  Our host welcomed us into his home by being at the door and giving us the biggest hugs as he was proclaiming, "I've been waiting for you, and I am so glad you've finally arrived! Welcome to my home!   We are so excited to have you here with us!"  He introduced us to his wife and family, and he led us into a simple but warm and readied home.  Wow!  That was enough for me, I was good!  Whatever happened from there on was icing on the cake!  However, our host was just getting started.  He knew what foods and drinks we enjoyed and had them in supply for our visit.  He and his wife both served us throughout our time there.  They were sensitive to our needs, initiated conversation, but also allowed us some "down time" to relax and not socialize.  They treated us like honored and special guests who were not imposing, but rather blessing them by being there.  It was very impacting and humbling.  It felt like Jesus Himself was our host, loving and serving us through this man and his wife.

In both my examples, the men set the tone of what kind of experience of hospitality we would have in their homes.  It was the men who initiated the first impression on whether we were wanted or just tolerated.  Their influence was profound and powerful in what and how it was communicated to us.

There is something uniquely honoring about a man welcoming others into his home and family, and then being attentive in serving them.  Hospitality is not just for women!  It is for all of us who seek to use our homes as welcoming sanctuaries for all we are privileged to welcome inside. 

Brothers, all I can say to you is; "Man up, and walk in the powerful tool of hospitality to communicate worth, value and The Father's great love to all who enter your home!"

*****The next blog post will be suggestions, ideas and specific things you can do to communicate hospitality .........

Till then,

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