I was looking forward to reading this book as I thought I was quite good at hospitality. However, it put me firmly in my place! Nevertheless I did really enjoy reading it, it’s compelling and full of encouraging testimonies of God’s grace.
The book is an autobiographical peek behind the curtains into Rosaria Butterfield’s home. The gospel comes with a house key – so the door is always open to friends, family, neighbours, strangers and foster children.
During the average week many people will gather around the family table to enjoy food, fellowship and family devotions. She’ll be walking the dog with neighbours, feeding their cats whilst on holiday, supporting a student through her finals, and countless other neighbourly activities.
I found so much to admire in her commitment to care for fellow believers and reach her lost neighbours, and to use her home for this purpose. In an age where so many of us see our home as our castle, where we pull up the drawbridge and protect our personal space, this is a necessary rebuke.
The book’s strength is probably also its weakness. Rosaria’s way of life is so radical, so unlike mine and that of many Christians I know. Amongst other things, her alarm goes off at 4.00am for coffee, Bible reading and prayer, she home-schools her children, and kneads the home-made communion bread every Saturday night. By the end of the book you wonder if she actually sleeps! And when does the family have time to be by themselves? It’s easy to feel inadequate when many of us wouldn’t have the energy to replicate her way of life. We need good examples to imitate, and sometimes it’s right to push ourselves, but we also need to be realistic.
The book also needs some cultural translation. What works in an American neighbourhood will look different for us in the UK, and there isn’t always a sense of community to build on. The danger is we end up feeling guilty when we can’t establish the deep friendships with neighbours that Rosaria has.
But don’t let those points put you off. One of the abiding messages of the book is that ‘God never gets the address wrong’. This radically changed my thinking, and when I moved house recently I made more of an effort to befriend my new neighbours. This is an excellent book, and a necessary challenge to us to reconsider how we use our homes, money, time and lives for Jesus.
Nelson, South Wales