Love Your Neighbor: a Conversation about Genuine Hospitality with Sean and Adrienne Robinson

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On this episode of the podcast, we’re joined by Sean and Adrienne Robinson to discuss hospitality! There’s so much we can say- the Robinsons are close friends and mentors that we met while in seminary in North Carolina!

It’s a blessing to have them on the podcast- they do such a great job at living out the Gospel and opening up their home to the people around them. They have two small children, and a dog named Rocky, and work at a church plant in California!

How would you define Hospitality?

This word gets thrown around a lot, especially in Christian culture. So, how would you define it and what should it look like from a biblical perspective?

Sean: From a biblical perspective, there are a bunch of different ways to tackle this, but the first verse that comes to my mind is 1 Peter 4:9. Peter presses upon the believers to show hospitality to one another without grumbling. But, what is hospitality? A lot of people think about the location- “I have to welcome people into my home.” But really, it is a rhythm of welcoming and serving sacrificially no matter where you are. It’s primarily aimed at people who can’t give anything in return. You give up something to welcome and serve people in such a way that they feel a part of the body or the group.

Adrienne: You said it pretty well. In our context, it looks like welcoming people into our home. It’s a heart posture- it’s more about your heart than it is about the practical/what it looks like. Jesus cares about your heart and how you are welcoming people. Women especially can fall into the trap that we need to prepare a four-course meal and our house needs to be spotless. We have an unbiblical picture of hospitality- but Jesus was the epitome of hospitality. He never owned a home to welcome people into, but he always made people feel welcome. If he is our model, the heart posture is the most important aspect of hospitality.

Nathaniel: The first image that comes to mind is that of Mary and Martha. We spend so much time worrying about non-essentials that we miss the point of hospitality!

How do you personally live out hospitality?

Adrienne: The big test for us was having someone live with us for a while. But right now, we have a pretty small apartment in San Diego, which makes it difficult to house people. Our goal and desire since we have been married is to open up our home as a place where people can live with us and we can do ministry and discipleship all the time with them.

Sean: Growing up and seeing my grandmother display hospitality so well was sweet. I give a lot of credit to her for how she raised my dad and for giving me an example of what hospitality truly looks like. She took a homeless family member in and helped her find a job every winter for about 3 years. She had a heart to welcome someone in, knowing that she may keep leaving, choosing to serve her regardless of how it played out. That type of service and heart for others and neighbors impacted my dad and me.

Now we have an open-door and -table policy. A family member of ours says, “there’s always room for one more.” Regardless, we will make it work. Right now, hospitality looks like sharing meals with others, whether it’s our neighbors or someone from church. Include other believers with you! This means being prepared for having extra people join you a few times throughout the week. If you expect this and plan for it, you’re ready for it to happen and it won’t catch you by surprise. It’ll never be picture-perfect, but it will be real life.

Did Hospitality Come Naturally to You?

We already touched on this a little bit, but did hospitality come naturally to you or is it something that you have had to cultivate in your marriage?

Adrienne: I feel like this is something I still have to cultivate! There are going to be times when you don’t feel like doing things, but you just have to! It’s worth it. The biggest thing I have learned is that hospitality pushes you to be selfless all the time. I can’t think about myself, I have to think about serving others. It has forced me to think that way- it can’t be about me, what I want, and my own comforts. It has to be about other people and serving them. So, I definitely have not reached the pinnacle- it is a constant battle. But it is always worth it and always a blessing.

Sean: Something I am learning is that hospitality is a sacrifice of your self-image. When you aren’t home, it’s easy to cultivate an image of what you want to look like. But when you invite people into your mess, it’s not so easy to do that. Your kids are comfortable, so they are themselves, and you’re forced to parent in front of other people, and it looks like you have no clue what you’re doing!

Adrienne: I have had people say that since we invited them in and let them see our actual lives and our rhythms has been so impactful. My discipleship, especially with young kids, may not look like getting to go to a coffee shop with an open Bible. But it can look like college students coming over while I chase around kids. Somehow, they can get some Jesus through all of that.

Sean: Thinking about that, so much of the Bible is caught rather than taught. That comes to life when we welcome people into the rhythms of life, whether it’s our home, parenting, our marriage, or our jobs. The way I parent partially stems from how my former pastor welcomed me into his home. Seeing how it played out was a game-changer for me. This is just one of the fruits of hospitality, but it requires dying to yourself and sacrificing the image that you might want to put out there. It is through Christ in me and his work in my life.

Nathaniel: I love how discipleship and hospitality really go hand-in-hand. We limit discipleship so much when we think it’s just a 1 hour Bible Study in a coffee shop. A disciple is someone who has spent time with the person whom they are receiving discipleship from. This naturally leads to our next question…

Doing Life Together…

One phrase thrown around in the church is “doing life together.” Do you feel like US churches do that well? If so, how? If not, why not? 

Adrienne: I think this goes beyond the US church and it has a lot to do with our American culture. It is so individualized- people go to work, come home and stay in their bubble- they eat, watch Netflix, go to sleep, and repeat. It’s not the norm to have people over for dinner or to live life with others. We have had to reorganize our brains in how we think about rest and recuperation.

Sean: I think that’s pretty accurate. Rest and Sabbath really can look like doing it with others (or not). Some relationships are easier than others and it truly can be restful to do life with these people. Rest doesn’t have to just look like “me time.”

Nathaniel: We can fill our schedule up with so many things and so many times we devalue the church and hospitality. It’s not about duty, but you should want to spend your time doing these things. Hospitality is a blessing and life-giving! Even if you’re watching sports, this is something you can invite other people into!

What about “Me Time?”

Sean: We aren’t saying that people don’t need alone time. Jesus took time to pull away from others and spend time alone. It is needed, but Jesus saw it as a delight to be around people and sit at the table with others. Ultimately, I think it boils down to this question: “Why has the Lord gifted us with the gifts we have?” It is to see that we serve one another. 1 Peter 4:10 (right after the verse about hospitality) talks about using our gifts to serve one another! We’ve been given relationships and time and talents and treasures to serve others.

Adrienne: I recently read Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out and it was the most freeing book on evangelism that I have read. It talks about using your gifts and who God has made you to be in the lives of the people God has placed in your life. Again, it’s more about your heart than exactly how it looks. Does this mean you need to be around people? Yes- God has given us this command and we can’t shy away from it, but this looks different for different people.

You also have to examine your heart to see what your motivations are and which ones are selfish. It’s all about your mindset. It’s crazy how powerful your perspective can be and this applies to hospitality! You can change the way you think about it and be excited and thankful for it if you rewire your thoughts about it instead of focusing on the hard or negative things. “I get to,” not, “I have to.”

Hospitality with Kids

What would you say to the person who wants to be hospitable, but having kids “limits” what they can do?

Sean: The biggest piece of encouragement that I hold on to is that it is only a season. The hardest season to invite others in, for us, is the toddler stage (obviously each season has its own difficulties). But with what we’ve been given, how do we push through? This doesn’t mean that you have to have someone over every single day, but maybe once a week?

Adrienne: Sometimes, it’s actually easier for you to host than go somewhere else. You can put your kids down or they can play in their room. This is something we’ve utilized with having our own place- our single friends come over all the time. We can put the kids to bed and play cards and hang out. Utilize your situation to make it work for you! We believe that our kids are joining us in ministry. We want them to see that their parents invite lost people into their home and eat dinner with people who don’t look like them. These experiences are valuable and ultimately.

Sean: This was modeled to us and had an impact and we want to model this for our kids. And honestly, our kids are actually a great blessing and help us meet people a lot.

Nathaniel: it goes back to what you were saying earlier- it’s not perfect, but it’s real life. And people appreciate getting invited into that.

Xan: Yeah, I feel like real life is refreshing these days. There is so much curation and image-making in our culture right now.

If someone wants their church to do better at “doing life together” how would you advise them to start?

As a member, how can you cultivate this in your church body?

Sean: Yeah, this is something we’re trying to help with at our church, The Hill. How do you get a church to walk out the biblical hospitality we see in the Scriptures? We’ve started doing something called “Feasts Together.” There is something powerful in a meal- Jesus often shared meals with others. You have to eat, so you might as well do it together. Every Sunday (except for holidays), a community group purposefully feasts together (hosting together or going out to lunch).

Adrienne: It’s a place to invite visitors or people you meet to on Sundays. You can immediately invite them into something deeper. As we said earlier, if you don’t plan it, it won’t happen. We also try to invite our church community into what we are doing in our apartment complex and loving our neighbors well. Some of the things we are trying to help others figure out this year include: how to host events and things in your neighborhood, easy ways to have a BBQ or serve coffee in the morning, welcome visits to new neighbors, and doing little things to meet and interact with your neighbors.

Could you share more about Apartment Life, what that is, and how that’s going?

Adrienne: Essentially, Apartment Life is a nonprofit that serves in apartment complexes all across the US. If you’re interested, they currently have tons of job openings, so you should look into it! Their mission is to love neighbors at apartment complexes. Essentially, we live here with a discounted rent to intentionally live on mission. We meet our neighbors, host two events a month, welcome visits, renewal visits, and care acts. We also care for the apartment staff and try to build relationships with them. It’s really cool and has been so impactful for us over the past year. It has taught us so much about hospitality and serving others- it has really forced us out of our comfort zone too. I’ll never be the same anywhere else I live because of the things I have learned here.

What is Home?

Xan: I remember over four years ago sitting in y’all’s house and talking about what home is. Adrienne, would you share your perspective on home?

Adrienne: I can’t remember when it started, but I’m a words person. I became really interested in the idea that home isn’t a place, but it’s the people you are with. Home is eternal and eternity isn’t about the place, but the people you are with. You feel like you’re at home when you’re with the people who make it feel like home.

Home is where you’re people are!

One Degree Shift

What is one thing someone can do to start cultivating hospitality in their own life?

Adrienne: Put it on your calendar!

Sean: Once you put it on your calendar, just text someone and invite them over!

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