There are few virtues that have been as impactful in my life as radical hospitality, both as a giver and a receiver. Two stories and then some thoughts.
When I was in high school I wasn’t following Jesus. I was angry, had a bad attitude, thought Christians were stupid and spent most of my time talking about those things. Then, through a series of events, I was offered a home to stay in where I could crash, chill and relax as well as talk, eat and sleep.
The home belonged to a young newly-wed couple, just out of college, just starting their jobs and lives together. They were broke, in love and working hard, but none of those things stopped them from offering me food, a room and a place to come to at any time.
Later, while I was in college, again I ended up in a situation where I had no money, no place to stay and very few prospects. Two dear friends, Chris and Jessie, opened their extra room up to us and I lived there. Chris and Jessie were newly weds, getting ready to start a family, just settling into their new home and made the decision early that they would use their resources to the fullest, which meant if they had a room open, they would fill it with someone who needed it.
My freshman year in college I started doing jail ministry. I had gotten plugged in by my friend Ross Kellis that fall semester and loved it. Hanging out in jail with guys who were there for a wide range of things from not paying child support to murder offered me a neat chance to really talk with people that were a-typical to my small bible college experience.
One day, there was a knock at my door. My friends DJ and Cody were standing there and asked me for a favor. They too were involved in the jail ministry and had recently met up with a guy who had recently been released. They had gotten him some clothes and a job, now they needed one more thing: a place for him to live. I had a single in Harbin, which meant that I was living by myself in a room with two beds. “Sure, totally,” I said.
David lived with me for three months. He lived rent free, which allowed him to save up enough money for a deposit and two months rent on an apartment in Searcy, which he moved into at the end of the semester.
I think radical hospitality begets radical hospitality. In light of the things that I had been given, it was a no-brainer that I would give David the other bed in my room. Personal risk didn’t even factor into the picture. Much was given for me, so it is expected that I will give much to others. I think if you’ve never been in need then you don’t know how much your giving really matters.
I have always hoped to live open-handedly like the couple I stayed with in high school, like the couple I lived with in college. It is only now that I am seeing the strangeness in those acts. I have friends everywhere who are getting married and engaged who are living on one end of this spectrum or another–mostly one end. “My house,” “my car,” “my husband,” “my marriage,” “my time.”
Without the radical hospitality I experienced as a nonbeliever, I don’t know Jesus. Plain and simple. And it didn’t stop there. Without radical hospitality I don’t get to Michigan, I don’t stay in Michigan. I don’t get to do the work that I am doing in Detroit.
I never used to think of these couples loaning a bed as “radical” or me sharing my dorm as that either. It wasn’t until recently that these things became abnormal in my frame of thought. I thought they were just… expected.