Who do you let into your house?
One of our duties as dads is to protect our families as much as possible from spiritual harm. As believers always have, we live in a world that does not conform to God’s ways. So a natural impulse is to close the gate, crank in the drawbridge, and huddle in the keep—away from the influences that threaten to draw our hearts from our Lord.
These spiritual dangers are real. Some things shouldn’t be allowed in this sanctuary. We are to “be holy as [He] is holy, … conducting [ourselves] with fear [during] the time of [our] exile (1 Peter 1:16–17 ESV). We should “hate [even] the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 1:23 ESV).
Yet this same Holy Lord, whose people we are, has left us in this world as His priestly representatives (1 Peter 2:9). Indeed, Christ clarified that our situation within a godless culture is deliberate, when He prayed in the garden, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil…” (John 17:15 ESV). He wants us here.
But He wants us even more than here. He wants us in substantive contact with the sinners of this world. Really? Yes. We are both light and salt in this world (Matthew 5:13–16). While light can give its benefits from a distance, salt only “does its thing” in direct contact. Paul is even more surprising when he invites believers to “associate with” sinners in 1 Corinthians 5:9–10; then he lists out the kinds of people we should associate with: “the sexually immoral,” the “greedy and swindlers,” the “idolaters” of this world (1 Corinthians 5:9–10 ESV).
All of this adds up to a crucial tension we must maintain: Pursue holiness (protect your family spiritually) and befriend unbelievers. The befriending-unbelievers part, that’s going to mean some hospitality.
Bring them into your home. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers” (Hebrews 13:2 ESV). Sharing your home with those outside the faith is one of the most tangible ways you can “walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time” (Colossians 4:6 ESV). Mealtime small-talk with unbelievers puts into action the command, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” when the small-talk turns to soul-talk (Colossians 4:6 ESV).
Opening your front door to those who do not know Christ is vulnerable in both directions. That “cool work friend” might not know just how Christian you are until he sees the book titles on your bookshelf, the way you parent your kids, and even the way you pray for a meal. At the same time, your children might be innocent about any number of visible and verbal markers of those without Christ. But purposeful, missional hospitality offers great rewards for God’s kingdom—and your family.
When you open your front door to the lost, you open so many other doors.
Open the door for understanding. As Christians heavily (and rightly) involved in our church communities, we can subtly form caricatures of unbelievers (e.g., political party affiliates, lesbian and gay, agnostics, etc.) more informed by our social media algorithms than experience with real people. Hospitality can help you understand the people behind (and driving) the worldviews we so shrewdly critique in the abstract. I think we’re in for some pleasant surprises: people’s worldviews are not quite so entrenched as we perceive; they’re a lot more like us (bearing God’s image) than we might think; and most of all, all people need the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Open the door for talks with your kids. We have a responsibility to prepare our kids to operate in the world they will inhabit alongside all kinds of people in all manner of lifestyles. Inviting all kinds of people into your home will give rise to talks you probably need to have anyway, but in a personal context of Christian love.
Open the door to friendship. Most of the people we know, we know from a non-relational setting. Before someone is your friend, they are usually your neighbor, your co-worker, your contractor, or your fellow hobby enthusiast. Hospitality can be the powerful bridge from those obligatory connections to a deliberate friendship. And even if that friendship never materializes, or if the friendship never produces a new disciple of Jesus, it still relays the kind of welcoming love we have received from Christ. Offer friendship for the sake of Christ!
Open the door for the gospel. Of course, our hope and prayer for these hospitality efforts is for more souls to enter Christ’s kingdom! Christian hospitality is a faith-filled endeavor to further the Great Commission. By inviting the lost into our homes, we open the door to being the “fragrance of Christ” to “those who are being saved” (2 Corinthians 2:14–16). In evangelism, one of your most powerful tools is hospitality.
Do you want to do this? A few final tips:
Balance. The tension between family protection and openness is difficult to strike. There would theoretically be a point at which a house guest’s negative influence would outweigh the benefit; but I would venture to say the biggest threats to our household’s spiritual climate are not our dinner guests. As a rule, we should be much more careful about the entertainment we consume in our homes than the people we welcome into our homes.
Pray. Do this before you ever invite. Ask God to bless your obedience to His commands by sovereignly preparing your guests to accept. Ask Him to grant lasting fruit from your efforts (John 15:16).
Discuss. This won’t work unless your wife is on board. When both of you are bought into this idea, then you’re ready to proceed; not before.
Initiate. Likely in any twenty-first friendship or family, the Christian(s) will be more likely to initiate hospitality, precisely because we have the Scriptural admonitions and Spirit-motivated love that drives it. Accept that you’re going to be “that guy” who invites your unbeliever buddies (and their families) over.
Eat. This might seem like a no-brainer, but start with a meal. Sharing a meal is the ultimate ice-breaker and conversation-starter—a much better “first thing” than sitting in a circle in the living room and making small talk. (Sometimes Heidi and I even plan a dessert-and-coffee later, not because we need it, but because it continues to put people at ease with “something to do” as they talk, even if it’s just taking bites and sips between sentences.)
Repeat. Once you’ve invited someone into your personal space (your home), it is highly likely they’ll return the favor. Then you can have them back over, and so on. Hospitality builds momentum like that.
Brothers, let’s lead and leverage our families to be the “salt of the earth” for our non-Christian friends and neighbors. Open the door!