When it comes to gifts in ministry, there is one that I’ve always been certain I do not possess–hospitality. I’ve opened up my apartment to host Bible studies and dinners, but it’s not something that has ever come naturally to me in the traditional sense. Whenever I go to a friend’s house and see their gorgeous place-settings, I always feel envious of their artistic eye. Just last night Ike and I had dinner at a friend’s house, and as we waited for dinner to be served she presented us with an assortment of delicious finger foods–cheese, crackers, veggies, and wine. As I filled my mouth with yummy cheddar cheese cubes I thought to myself, “How come I never thought of this! Appetizers!!” as if it was some sort of new invention.
And in case you forgot, I just started cooking when I got married 6 months ago. Fortunately there haven’t been any more chili debacles since the one I mentioned a few months ago, but there’s definitely a learning curve. Hospitality is a learned discipline for me.
With this in mind, I’ve been encouraged in my study of Philippians to learn of a different kind of hospitality. As I mentioned in my last post, the Philippian church was unique in that it began with the conversion of women. As one scholar put it, “Women were an important part of the church in Philippi, helping to provide for the missionaries’ needs, as well as working alongside of them.”
In particular, Lydia, a God-fearing woman from Asia, was the first convert in Philippi and became a major resource to the church. Acts 16:15 tells us that following her conversion she “invited us to her home.” saying “‘If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my house.’ And she persuaded us.” This verse may not seem like much, but for me it was revolutionary.
Before meeting Paul, Lydia was already an entrepreneur. She was a dealer in purple, one of the most costly substances in the ancient world. She was a successful businesswoman, and she used this pioneering spirit to make the most of her resources for God. Specifically, she used the resource of her home.
While we traditionally think of hospitality as the baking of casseroles and the hosting of dinners, Lydia had a different idea. She was gifted at hospitality in a way that actually grew the Kingdom of God. For Lydia, hospitality meant turning her home into an outpost for God’s mission field.
I find this to be a tremendously challenging and inspiring example. Especially for women who find themselves at a season in life when they are somewhat bound by their homes. Some women are so busy raising kids and taking care of the house that the idea of anything beyond that is overwhelming.
In the face of this seeming obstacle to ministry, Lydia challenges us with a different approach to hospitality. While place settings and casseroles aren’t bad things, the real question is how are you using your home to further the Kingdom of God in your community? Creating a nice ambience for dinner parties can certainly be one way to do this, but it’s not the only way.
Lydia challenges us to think outside the box when it comes to hospitality. It takes the focus off Martha Stewart and places it back on Christ. How is your home an outpost for the mission field? What are you doing with the resource that you’ve been given through your home? As women, we compose half of God’s church and one of the primary resource we’ve been given to use is our homes. How are you being a good steward of it? How could the Kingdom of God be furthered were we to all follow in Lydia’s steps? Let me know if you have ideas, or if you’ve been using your home in a creative way. Let’s brainstorm this possibility together!