The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a hard review to write. First, in college I was welcomed by the author into the very type of hospitality she describes in this book. I know that she practices what she preaches, and practices it very well. I was an unchurched Christian and she brought me, and many other college students, to church followed by lunch in her modest apartment with delicious and modest meals. The wisdom, love, and conversation she shared at these lunches were delightful. Many of us would stay the whole day and return with her for evening worship, in the small church’s basement.
Still, after I began this book, I was nervous. At first, I really did worry it was going to be a new law, and I think it was the description of how the Butterfields practice hospitality and the insistence that we must practice “daily” or “nightly” table fellowship. It is embarrassing to say, because it shows how unlike Rosaria I am, but I scoffed at this! You mean to say God requires that every day or night I need to open my home to people and if I don’t, I am sinning? Can that truly be a biblical command that I have been ignoring for my whole Christian life? This made me both nervous and skeptical. Oh no! I can’t even handle all of the things I already feel obligated to try to do well! Should I even finish reading this book? Am I just going to feel guilty? But I know how lovely Rosaria’s Lord’s Days were! How lovely she is! Keep reading! And I was also aware, thankfully, that even if I can’t do it the Butterfield way, I should be involved in hospitality way more than I am now. So I read it with part skepticism (sorry!) and part trepidation–I know I need to do this better. Keep reading!
The weirdest part was that the crazy radical hospitality that she describes is probably my dream life! I would love to see neighbors everyday and be in and out of people’s lives in such a constant way. But reading it when I was wondering if this was a command, scared me still! I don’t live this way and I don’t see that coming any time soon. At the time that I read this book, I had five kids who I was homeschooling. (Now my kids are split between going to Christian school or being homeschooled–which adds new challenges!) I know she homeschools, too, but we are different people with different gifts (she is brilliant, for instance) and have different numbers and ages of children and probably different levels of hands-on-edness required, etc. The fact that I even had to wrestle with these things (and make excuses for myself!) is what made me nervous! Should I be defending myself–to myself–because I don’t see making my house look exactly like hers? Again, the conviction that I was guilty of practicing hospitality less than I should be, regardless if it should be daily or weekly or what, told me to keep reading.
So I did! Finishing the whole book, I do not think that this book is saying that we must look like the Butterfields in order to be living right, because she does share how other people practice hospitality and they don’t all look like hers (chapter eight). Also, she describes a period of time (in chapter seven–my very favorite chapter for its sweetness and evidence of God’s beautiful grace in an otherwise sad story) where she could not practice this daily hospitality. She sorrowfully missed practicing this way, but she doesn’t say she was sinning.
I think my knee-jerk reaction to the earliest chapters were probably me reading the book critically out of a guilty conscience. I know I don’t practice regular or even frequent hospitality. I know that I could do some things differently in order to love my neighbors (which is God’s command for us) better and more frequently or even at all. I don’t know many of my neighbors. I don’t invite all the people from my church, even, to my home regularly. This book really gives a vision for an incredible, and hard, people-filled life–and it shows how this life brings people to the Lord himself! In the end, it has been a great encouragement! I fully recommend it.
As a memoir sharing how living a life of radical hospitality has turned strangers into friends into family members, this book is incredible. Five stars.
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