In both life and Scripture, Christian hospitality is the place where truth is often revealed and people are exposed. And truth is edgy. Truth is divisive. Jesus died for the truth. Are we willing to live for it?
By: Chris Egner
Rosario’s first book, Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, details her conversion to Christianity and out of the LGBT lifestyle. This happened through an outpouring of grace by an elderly Christian couple who for years opened their door to Rosario weekly for dinner. And it was through that open door a table was set for God’s irresistible grace to conquer Rosario’s heart. It was radical hospitality, and this couple’s home became her “two-year refuge” where she sought and found Jesus Christ. The book left me with a greater understanding of the importance of hospitality along with a desire to learn how I could practice it in my home.
In her new book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key, Rosario answers that desire and more. She argues that hospitality is a duty of every believer and opens the door to her life, what she calls radical ordinary hospitality. She defines it 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.” It is radical in that its Gospel centered, counterculture, and sacrificial. It is ordinary in that it is an everyday lifestyle, a routine, a habit. Each chapter unpacks real-life consequences (good and bad) that accompany this lifestyle along with a more in-depth than expected theological unpacking of many Biblical passages upon which she builds her case. The theological content surprised me the most. Rosario isn’t just telling us to be kind to our neighbors. She argues point after point with a solid exegesis of Scripture.
Rosario is an educated and gifted writer, and her style is engaging and well-paced. But, be warned, this book isn’t a casual read because it will push you into some uncomfortable spots. It was challenging because I felt it was not possible to be as hospitable as her, as though it were a unique gift upon her family. It became clear she is not arguing for all to copy her, but she is asking we make sacrifices for the good of our neighbors. More impressive, as I read on, she easily defeated every objection or doubt that crept into my mind as if she was anticipating every one, because she admits the difficulties and how she wrestled with them too.
Further, each chapter contains practical steps anyone could begin today to adopt this lifestyle. She convinced me through each chapter that I was missing the point with my objections. Before reading this book, I thought of hospitality as something I had to squeeze in after the hobbies were out of the way, chores done, and commitments fulfilled. Rosario and her family have created a lifestyle of hospitality. It is not an unwelcome burden or something they only do when they have time.
I don’t want to spoil too much regarding the encouraging and heartbreaking stories she masterfully weaves throughout. But the book begins with a reclusive neighbor across the street she is determined to befriend. Rosario quickly reveals this neighbor has some trouble with the law (understatement), yet Rosario’s reaction to this, especially in contrast to the other neighbors, is inspiring. While the book doesn’t focus on this one story, it does become something which she revisits throughout, even confessing a sin on her part that could have possibly changed the story of her neighbor. The rest of the chapters detail some aspect of radical ordinary hospitality by way of examples from her life, very pragmatic advice, and an abundance of Scripture. A chapter on “deathbed hospitality” which she titled, “Giving up the Ghosts: The Lamentation of Hospitality” was intensely personal and where she admits they had to put their usual hospitality routine on hold for almost two years.
Chapter Three “Our Post Christian World: The Kindness of Hospitality” is a summary of her conversion and the hospitality shown to her which she detailed in her first book. One surprising chapter titled “Judas in the Church: The Borderland of Hospitality” was as much about church discipline as it was hospitality, highlighting some challenges that do come to opening your door as she does. I enjoyed her wisdom of practical steps littered throughout as I made notes of small steps I can immediately do to create better habits of love toward our neighbors.
Her final chapter “Feeding the Five Thousand: The Nuts and Bolts and Beans and Rice” she asks, in light of all God is, “How does he use us?” She then unpacks issues like having boundaries for married couples, scheduling, dangers of hidden sin, and counterfeit hospitality. She concludes asking us to imagine a world where all Christian households adopted this lifestyle “…where no one languishes in crushing loneliness, where no abused woman or man or child suffers alone, where people take their real and pressing problems to Christians who have the reputation of being helpers, and where victims are not swept away, lost, forgotten.”
Rosario never downplays how vital hospitality is for the follower of Jesus, and it is that honesty I appreciated. She knows most of us have chosen comfort and convenience over the soul of our neighbors and community when she declares “Radically ordinary hospitality begins when we remember that God uses us as living epistles and that the openness or inaccessibility of our homes and hearts stands between life and death, victory and defeat, and grace or shame for most people.” I know that can sound a bit strong, but like me, once you finish her book, I think you will agree with her.
At the end, Rosario left me asking this: Are we willing to open our doors, both our physical ones into our home and the metaphorical door of our heart, and let our home and life get a little messy, give up some comfort, let go of our routines, so that our neighbors know our house as a refuge where God’s truth shines brightly? Before reading this book, my answer would have been “Nice idea, but I don’t see how my home can be that place. The cost seems too high.” But now I’m armed with years of Rosario’s wisdom and experience, practical ways to reach out to my neighbors, and the encouragement of God’s word that the cost is more than worth it.