In The Gospel Comes with a House Key, Rosaria Butterfield outlines the Christian call to radical hospitality. It’s more than just hosting dinner and feeding your neighbors; it’s a way of life that sends a beacon out to your neighborhood that your home is safe for the vulnerable, the spiritually lost, and those in need of community.
I enjoyed reading this book for Butterfield’s great insight into living
radically ordinary hospitality everyday, but I struggled with the notion of actually putting these things into practice. As an introvert, inviting people into my home on a very regular basis (everyday!) is way outside of my comfort zone. My wife felt the same way when she read the book. Yet we both feel drawn to Christian hospitality as a ministry.
But I think breaking out of your comfort zone may be one of the points of the book. As an introvert herself, Butterfield points out that she gets up extra early in the morning to give herself plenty of alone time to pray, read, and cook before the day begins. Introverted people must have a balance, and that means ensuring alone time on a busy day, not avoiding busy days.
We introverts miss out on great blessings when we excuse ourselves from practicing hospitality because it exhausts us. I often find people exhausting. But over the years I have learned how to pace myself, how to prepare for the private time necessary to recharge, and how to grow in discomfort. Knowing your personality and your sensitivities does not excuse you from ministry. It means that you need to prepare for it differently than others might.
Rosaria Butterfield, The Gospel Comes with a House Key
It’s sometimes a bit uncomfortable, especially when we invite brand new acquaintances over. And I don’t think we will do all that the Butterfields are doing, but we’re figuring out how to employ radically ordinary hospitality in a space usually reserved for outgoing personalities, as this Christianity Today article by Sara Kyoungah White explores.
White seems a bit put off by Rosaria Butterfield’s extroverted approach to hospitality, but again, I think there are ways to protect an introverted nature from imploding. Jesus himself withdrew from crowds and his disciples constantly. Some people think he was introverted, but he certainly didn’t shy away from his ministry work.
White makes some excellent points, though, and I got some of the same impressions from Butterfield’s book. Hospitality is about being a light to a broken world. It’s sitting with a friend (or stranger) who’s hurting. It’s visiting the incarcerated person, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick.1 Christian hospitality is also helping someone paint their home, providing a meal, driving someone to the airport, landscaping a neighbor’s yard.
Rosaria Butterfield has planted her flag on the hill of Christian witness through radically ordinary hospitality, because people stand to lose a lot of what they care for by coming to Jesus,
and some people have more to lose than others. Some people have one cross, and others have ten to carry.
When we live out the Christian faith in a way that values people as Jesus does, when we take seriously Paul’s command to bear one another’s burdens2, and when we want to restore justice to the vulnerable on this side of eternity, we will discover new joys by giving parts of ourselves to our neighbors.
The job of an ally is to accompany someone in her suffering and to carry some of the load of cross bearing.
Rosaria Butterfield, The Gospel Comes with a House Key
The Gospel Comes with a House Key is a great ministry handbook for middle-class Americans with large grocery budgets and extroverted tendencies. But don’t believe for a second that introverts with modest means and small homes simply cannot be hospitable. We can adopt the exact same model that Butterfield encourages—even if on a smaller scale. We introverts must take additional steps, though, to allow ourselves the alone time that we need. Without that, our hospitality ministries will burn us out.
We must also be careful not to simply entertain, but to actually engage and deepen relationships. And we cannot hold too tightly to our possessions and achievements, which can easily become idols that prevent us from Christian hospitality. Butterfield notes a common obstacle to radically ordinary hospitality: fear that one cannot provide enough food, space, or entertainment.
Hospitality shares what there is; that’s all. Hospitality is not the same as entertainment, as Rosaria Butterfield explains in an interview with Lindsey Carlson:
Entertainment is about impressing people and keeping them at arm’s length. Hospitality is about opening up your heart and your home, just as you are, and being willing to invite Jesus into the conversation, not to stop the conversation but to deepen it.”
I’m energized by the idea of hospitality—just not always by the act. The Gospel Comes with a House Key is a great book that I recommend to all Christians, because hospitality involves the mandates that Jesus gave to all of his followers. Even if you can’t do it like the Butterfields do—with nightly neighborhood potlucks—you can create space in your day for a hurting person. We can all provide meaningful hospitality.
Read Matthew 25. ↩
Read Galatians 6. ↩
Butterfield, Rosaria. Interview by Lindsey Carlson. “Rosaria Butterfield: Christian Hospitality Is Radically Different from ‘Southern Hospitality.’” Christianity Today, 24 April 2018, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/april-web-only/rosaria-butterfield-gospel-comes-house-key.html. Accessed 31 July 2022. ↩