This book is not what you might expect of a book on hospitality: there isn’t a chapter with tips for making the time with your guests stress free; neither is there an appendix of tried and true recipes. On the other hand, you won’t find The Gospel Comes with a House Key to be a scholarly essay discussing Scripture’s usage of the words “hospitality“ and “the Gospel.”
Rather, Rosaria Butterfield uses Scripture woven throughout personal examples to delineate an earnest plea for the Body of Christ to practice “radically ordinary hospitality.”
Butterfield defines radically ordinary hospitality as “using your Christian home in a daily way that seeks to make strangers neighbors, and neighbors family of God. It brings glory to God, serves others, and lives out the gospel in word and deed” (page 31).
Yes, Butterfield does primarily refer to hospitality in the context of opening our homes to strangers, neighbors, and believers alike in order to gather around the dinner table for food and intentional spiritual edification. But hospitality isn’t just about the food on the table or an opportunity to socialize with people outside of our circle of friends.
Rather, hospitality has implications that extend beyond the few hours we might spend together over a plate of food. In fact, Butterfield argues that living a lifestyle of simple hospitality is about the message of the Gospel. She implores us to open our homes in such a way that a watching world can see what the Gospel is all about—that the cross changes lives, that the cross gives answers to the hard questions in life, and that through the cross, Christ’s love is extended to all alike.
This kind of hospitality peels back the fronts of one’s social status, education, race, sexuality, financial position, political leanings, and even theological camps that so often divide us. In turn, this kind of regular hospitality has the potential to communicate the often-ignored truth that we are all made in the image of God. Indeed, the reality that we are all image-bearers produces a driving motive to practice radical hospitality. Furthermore, it exposes the world’s lie that “being a human being means both more and less than being an image bearer of a holy God” (page 60).
Indeed, grasping the significance of one’s divinely-imposed worth enables us to have blood-bought compassion on the drug addict living on the streets and the criminal in prison. It allows us to extend a comforting hand to the dying and give a home to children whose homes are shattered.
Now that is extreme. But Butterfield argues even these situations provide opportunities to practice ordinary hospitality.
Butterfield takes hospitality one step further and boldly suggests that “radically ordinary and daily hospitality is the basic building block for vital Christian living. Start anywhere. But do start” (page 220).
I take that statement to mean that practicing hospitality is one of the most straightforward, basic, and uncomplicated ways to live out and articulate the message of the gospel before a watching world. However, inviting strangers into my home is a scary thought, for it invites them to enter into my safe-haven and allows them to see that I struggle with sin and that I am in constant need of God’s grace. The thought of making myself so vulnerable is threatening. But is worth seriously considering, for the Gospel is most certainly worthy of any and all risks we may take!
The Gospel Comes with a House Key was convicting on several different levels:
It spoke to my apathy in witnessing to the unsaved.
It spoke to my stinginess in sharing what I have with those around me.
It spoke to my failure to see all human beings as being made in the image of God and to see their divinely-imposed worth as such.
Finally, it spoke to my laziness to practice intentional hospitality towards those outside my circle of friends.
And so I sit here, praying that God would nudge me beyond mere conviction and enable me to take baby steps towards making strangers my neighbors and neighbors part of the family of God.