Uncomfortable Hospitality

Dear Renea,

I have relatives/friends who are in a live-in relationship & would like to visit me & stay at my home. I was raised with strong Christian values & know this kind of relationship is wrong. Do I accommodate them or tell them they cant stay together or sleep in the same room if they are staying with me or should I offer to put them up in a hotel & tell them about my stand on their live-in relationship?

Hi Rachel.

You’re asking a really good question: How do we show love others to without endorsing sin? We do know we are to show others hospitality: to make others feel welcome, at home, where they feel as though they can be themselves and are encouraged to be their true selves, the selves God intended them (and us) to be all along: this is one of the most significant ways we “love our neighbor as ourselves.”

I think each of the possible scenarios you’ve offered have hospitable potential, so what matters is how you do one of those things. For example, putting them up in a hotel could be an act received by your friends as very hospitable; they might really enjoy having their own space. Or they might be offended or saddened or they might feel as though they are not welcome to stay in your house. I don’t know you’re friends, so I can’t say how they’ll respond. But you know them. You know what they’ll think. If you think there’s any possibility of their being offended by being put in a hotel, I would avoid that option.

So what about putting them up in your house? This really requires prayer, prayer, prayer. If you feel, with the Holy Spirit, strongly that you don’t want them sleeping together in your house; I think it’s reasonable to ask them to stay in separate rooms out of respect for you (perhaps especially if they’re also believers in Christ). But you’ll have to be very careful about how you go about doing this (perhaps especially if they’re not believers).

You want to be sure to do everything in love; to make sure they know you love and value them, that you consider their comfort over your own… that’s hospitality.

Personally, think it’s probably better to let them stay in the same room in your house. If they know that you believe extramarital sex is wrong, but they see that you love them enough to value them above yourself and consider them along with yourself (Phil 2:3-4), that will really speak to them about the breadth and depth of Christian charity (love).

Whatever your decision, remember that Christ kept company with all sorts of sinners, and he did so by meeting them—and us too!—where they were (which, as I said, I think can be done in any of these scenarios depending on how you go about it). And only when they asked him did he say, “Go and sin no more,” or, “Sell all your belongings and give them to the poor,” or, “You must be born again,” pointing them toward salvation and the Kingdom of God.

Blessings to you, Rachel; and God’s peace be upon you.

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9 Responses to Uncomfortable Hospitality

  1. You know says:

    Renea –
    You know who this is, but for anonymity reasons I am writing this anonymously. I actually really agree with your stance on this. I like how you tie it back to “hospitality” as well. We have to recognize that others may not have the same moral code as us, and it can actually be very unloving to tell friends that they have to abide by your moral code. I think we can draw the line on some things (illegal things, like drugs or murder), but in matters of moraliy, we have to be much more careful.

    And before I get lambasted by others, let me just say that I am a Christian male who used to live with his girlfriend at the time. My parents did not allow us to stay in the same room in their house. As a 25/26/27 year old man, this put a huge stick in my relationship with my parents, and as a consequence my girlfriend at the time had no desire to get to know them because she did not feel like she was accepted by them. And to be honest…she wasn’t. Neither was I. I hated going home because I knew that it was going to be awkward.

    I think we need to be so very careful. If your friends would be cool with you putting them up in a hotel (and I honestly think very few would be), great. Otherwise, is it worth sacrificing your friendship over a little moral stance like this? We’re told to love and accept others, and speak when we need to. I guess I think we need to pick our battles better as Christians. In my case, if my girlfriend and I had been accepted, I think things might have turned out a bit differently than they have.

    • reneamac says:

      Thanks, my friend, for sharing your story with us. Do you think things might have been different if your folks accepted your girlfriend even if they stood firm about your sleeping together in their house? I’m sure it’s awfully tempting to simply see her as the “woman who corrupted our son.” And that’s exactly the kind of thing we mustn’t do: reduce people in that way.

  2. You know says:

    Hi Renea –
    This is a good question. The problem is, “acceptance” can take so many different forms. And when there is no relationship already built, but it difficult if not impossible for someone to feel accepted by a new person when you come across instantly as judging them. In order for there to even be a chance for the scenario posed in the question to turn out well, a relationship already needs to be established. I think my parents set an unaccepting precedent early on.

    You are also right that we must not reduce people. We also must not push our beliefs on others too strongly. We have to be very wise about how we approach these things. My parents saw it as trying to teach me a lesson. I’m 27. I don’t need to be taught a lesson. At least that’s my take on it.

  3. Sally says:

    I don’t want to open a can of worms here, and I completely understand the point you make. But where do we draw the line on what kind of sin to put aside for friendship, and the kind of sin to put down our foot to? Do we allow a gay couple to stay in our home in the same room? How about an adulterous couple? Where do we draw the line? Yes, Jesus ate and was surrounded with sinners, but he always told them to “Go and sin no more”, He didn’t invite them to live in sin with Him. What are your thoughts?

    • reneamac says:

      Good thoughts, Sally. Thanks for commenting. Again I think a case-by-case, or to be more specific, person-by-person approach is best. We often place certain sins on an immovable hierarchy of social acceptably; we are often motivated by fear when it comes to things like this, and that kind of fear is a hindrance to faith, a killer of hope, and a foil to love.

      Christ only said “Go and sin no more” when invited in some way. Our actions speak for themselves, which is why people respond to them and why I think it’s possible to lovingly engage either scenario—separate rooms or one room—and each require the delicate diplomacy of living in the tension. What I’m most against is the making of either response into THE Christian response.

      • You know says:

        And I’m not sure it’s a matter of “drawing a line” either. By saying you’re drawing a line, you are creating a hierarchy of sins. I don’t believe that one sin is worse than another. Would you allow someone who has had an abortion to stay in your house, but not a homosexual? Why or why not?

        Once again, I think it comes down to the relationship you have with the people. Personally, if a gay friend was coming to my house (supposing I had a house) with his/her significant other of the same sex, yes I would allow them to stay in the same room. If I had kids, I would also explain my position on it. Oftentimes we do things out of how we might be perceived by others, so opening up the lines of communication with those who may not understand is the way to go.

        I also agree that Christ said “Go and sin no more” when invited in some way. It was also after people saw the error of their ways, not just when they had been told that they were in error. When they’ve seen the error of their ways, then they are willing and open to change. If they have not, they’ll probably not feel loved. Jesus didn’t tell the prostitute “Go away and stop being a prostitute, then come and I’ll love you”. He let her clean his feet (ie accepted her as she was, which does not also mean condoning her sin) and he was overcome by her love, and I believe she went away changed.

        • reneamac says:

          Yep. A hierarchy of sin is a dangerous thing; we recognize, of course, that there is, at least on one level, somewhat of a hierarchy of consequences, but when Jesus equates anger toward another with murder, we don’t have to throw pragmatism out entirely, but no longer are we able to let what’s practical and safe be our sovereign guide.

          Personally, I would too.

          Thanks again for helpful commentary and suggestions for relationship-oriented decision-making.

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