A Quick Theology of Cookouts

Evolution-of-the-American-CookoutThe word cookout is not mentioned in the Bible.  I know.  However, my objective is to convince you, if you already are hosting people in your backyard, that you are doing a mighty work of God.  And if you aren’t currently sharing your home with others, my hope is that this will show you that you are missing out.

“I know what I’m missing out on: A sink full of dirty dishes, several full garbage bags of trash, a dirty house (probably with dirt tracked in by the neighbors), and exhaustion at the end of the night.”  Having people over to your house to share a meal can seem overwhelming–especially when you see all of the instagrammed pictures of outdoor parties everyone seems to be bragging about.  But stick with me.  I think this will be worth a minute of your time.

What’s in a Name?

A rose called by any other name would smell as sweet.  However, if you call a rose by the name ‘toilet’, you will have confusion on your hands.  When we speak about hosting a cookout, that seems like something that should be informed by Pinterest, Target, and Bobby Flay.  However, if we start talking about showing hospitality, all of the sudden we have an event that can be informed by the Bible.  It’s the same event.  The same basic things happening whether you call it a cookout or hospitality.  However, cookout does not appear in the Scriptures, but hospitality does.

“Seek to Show Hospitality”

In Romans 12, Paul shifts gears.  He has demonstrated the beautiful reality that undergirds our lives as Christians.  In view of everything that has happened to us and that God has done for us in Christ, Paul begins to command us to live a certain way: “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1).  In the following chapter, Paul rapid fires so many imperatives, it’s hard to keep up.  But the important thing to remember is that these commands are meant to call us to a life filled with spiritual acts of worship.

Tucked in there, at the end of a list of 13 imperatives is this closing flourish: “Seek to show hospitality” (Romans 12:13).  That’s an order.  That a command.  And it’s also an encouragement.  If you are a Romans 1-11 kind of believer, then you must seek to show Romans 12:13 kind of hospitality.  The word there “seek” is more like “hunt, pursue hotly, chase after”.  This isn’t lackadaisical hospitality or hospitality by accident.  This is something you hunt down.  This command means that none of us are off the hook.  Choosing not to show hospitality is actually disobedience to God.

We have to see the beauty in this command. It’s transformational.  All of the sudden, a hum-drum cookout that you dread hosting because of the cost, the planning, the clean-up, etc., now becomes a giant act of spiritual worship.  Remember Romans 12:1?  These imperatives are all a part of a Christian life lived in joyful obedience to God.

Hosting a cookout in brotherly love is actually a spiritual act of worship to God.

Let That Sink In.

This is a game-changer.  God actually wants you to fire up the grill this summer.  God is actually pleased when you relax in the backyard with the neighbors while the kids play in the sprinkler.  God is overjoyed when you let people track mud through your house.  He actually commands us as His children to do so.

We so often chafe at the commands of God: “Geez, do I have to show hospitality?”  That’s like complaining about not wanting to get in the car when your parents are trying to take you to Disney World.  God commands us to do things because they will increase our joy.  I cannot think of an activity that has brought more joy into our home than when we have hosted families for dinner, for a cookout, or for a party.

So get out there, flip some burgers, share some iced tea with your Christian and non-Christian friends, and be confident that you are doing it all to the glory of God!

(photo credit)