On Sunday our church begins a series of sermons about hospitality. Related to this topic is something I often wonder about: Why has the setting for meals with friends and family shifted from the home to the restaurant? There must be many reasons for this (and I realize this shift isn’t true for everyone): less time at home, busier schedules, less interest in cooking, etc.
Preparing for these sermons has raised another possibility related to the standard roles of guest and host required by all hospitality. Accepting an invitation into someone’s home is also accepting the role of guest, a position of less control than that of the host. The guest is at the mercy of the host – menu, time of meal, choice of additional guests, which cultural norms will dominate – even as the host ostensibly serves the guest. These role differences between guest and host are generally small but noticeable. (In my experience this differentiation becomes less evident as relationships deepen to the point where my home truly is your home.)
Meeting friends and family at a restaurant allows us to avoid these roles and the related control issues. We simply show up, eat and talk on equal footing, at least until the bill arrives.
I hope to make the point tomorrow that hospitality patterned after Christ’s hospitality towards us blurs the lines between host and guest. We welcome and are welcomed by Christ and so we do the same with each other. Maybe fewer meals in restaurants could be evidence of increasing confidence in our hospitable God.