The End of Many Books

Unreasonable Hospitality

by Will Guidara

Part rising star autobiography, part intro to the world of fine dining, part leadership principles, the whole book is full of tasty courses from the hors d’oeuvre to the afters. A friend recommended it to me in January, but I procrastinated on getting a copy. In the meantime he recommended it to a whole bunch of people and then they all started talking about it so I could resist no longer.

I should have remembered Guidara and his restaurant, Eleven Madison Park, from a Seven Days Out episode that Mo had us watch a few years ago. The story is fun, even Legend; I wasn’t too many pages into the book before I cared about the author and his team.

Hospitality is a Christian virtue, and there is application to be found far beyond four star restaurants. How can you pay better attention to others, serve them, even surprise them? Hospitality is not exactly generosity, and it’s definitely not necessarily luxury. “Hospitality is about creating genuine connection” (loc. 1912), especially since “the human desire to be taken care of never goes away” (loc. 131), and comes with an opportunity “to make magic in a world that desperately needs more of it” (loc. 354).

Hospitality is potent, and something Christian cultures should develop. This book is a great encouragement toward that end.

4 of 5 stars

The End of Many Books

The Gospel Comes with a House Key

by Rosaria Butterfield

I read her previous book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, and was very edified by her testimony of conversion. This book is about hospitality, which is a mix of testimony of her family’s practice/experience and rebuke to the readers/Christians/the church.

She seems to conflate hospitality as obedience for every believer, and hospitality as a spiritual gift for some (not all) believers. She also walks close to the border of “this is how we do it and SO this is the right way for everyone to do it.” While writing as if to get everyone to be hospitable, which again, is required in at least some sense, she doesn’t quite seem self-aware enough to see that if everyone actually was doing it like her, then she’d have to look for something else to do.

Little comments, like making sure we know she’s cooking organic chicken in her crock pot, and how spiral notebooks on the kitchen table can solve a number of problems, give her preferences the feel of principles, which distract from the larger point.

Of even greater concern is repeated use of the word “violence” to describe what could be sins of omission. For example:

Our lack of genuine hospitality to our neighbors—all of them, including neighbors in the LGBTQ community—explains why counterfeit hospitality seems attractive. Our lack of Christian hospitality is a violent form of neglect for their souls. (Loc. 1037)

It is an act of violence and cruelty to people in your church who routinely have no place to belong, no place to need and be needed, after worship. (Loc. 1678)

And yet I’m glad I read it, especially since the ladies at our church read and talked about it together. But it’s not what I’d recommend for sake of learning hospitality. (Maybe something such as The Art of Neighboring would be a better start.)

2 of 5 stars

Lord's Day Liturgy

Outside Our Comfort-Circles

Hospitality matters because God is generous.

In Genesis 18 Abraham showed grand hospitality to three strangers. He didn’t know it at the beginning, but he was entertaining angels along with the Lord Himself. Abraham quickly prepared and served a great banquet to his unexpected guests. The author of Hebrews urged his readers to be ready to do the same.

Abraham was a man of means, but hospitality is a responsibility for every believer. The apostle Peter commanded his readers to it. He wrote, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9). Usually Paul is the one we look to for the “one anothers,” and Paul did exhort the Romans, “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” (Romans 12:13).

Hospitality is a kindness in welcoming guests and, it used to be, applied to those outside our comfort-circles. Hospitality is a way to love others through generously taking care of them. Invite, greet, serve, repeat. You don’t need to kill the fatted calf, but you do need to kill self-serving pride. You also don’t need to make sure everything is Pinterest perfect in your house. But you do need to clean up any bitterness or begrudging in your heart.

Most of Peter’s readers probably had rationalizations to avoid showing hospitality, such as fear of exposure as Christians or lack of resources, not to mention they were exiles. Yet the imperative stands as an expression of love. We are stewards of God’s varied grace, and we are to imitate Him in giving ourselves for others.

The End of Many Books

The Art of Neighboring

by Jay Pathak & Dave Runyon

According to Jesus, the second greatest commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” This book plainly and practically challenges Christian disciples not to take the command metaphorically but actually to, you know, love our neighbors. I’m thankful for that summons alone. I don’t agree with every piece of their suggested approach, but I do appreciate that at least they are urging obedience.

4 of 5 stars

Lord's Day Liturgy

Right Behind Isolation

One of the great virtues in Scripture is hospitality. Faithful families in the Old Testament received visitors into their homes, sometimes hosting them for days, providing for and protecting their guests. The apostle Peter urged his readers to “show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9). Paul identified hospitality as a necessary qualification for elders in a church (1 Timothy 3:2).

Hospitality includes welcoming, receiving, hosting, and providing for guests. It means showing kindness to others, be they friends or even strangers, as was often the case in the Bible. Hospitality is better experienced than exegeted, but it means that we open our homes, give of ourselves, and share our goods for the good of others. We don’t show hospitality because our guests deserve it as much as because they are benefited by it.

Where do we learn hospitality? Why is it such a valued virtue? Because hospitality is divine. Who receives others like God does? Who provides for others, not because they are great but because He wants to treat them greatly? Who has spared no expense to give good things to strangers? Who makes guests feel more welcome, strangers feel more at home, better than our God?

Stinginess is one of the great vices of our Christian culture, right behind isolation. Calculating how to share the least is not wise, it is ungodly. Paul chastised the well-to-do Corinthians for not doing so well as they hoarded for themselves (1 Corinthians 11:20-22). The communion meal, meant to illustrate lavish grace, great cost, and abundant provision, was instead used as an opportunity to serve self.

There is a lesson learned around the Lord’s Table that we should take to all our tables. Give as has been given to you. Invite the undeserving, shower guests with care. Treat others with the portion you would enjoy. Christ is a great host and He invites us to eat and drink with Him at His cost.