Gastfreundschaft: “the freedom of the guest”

Weekend Musings

Sometimes a foreign language can illuminate an issue with a clarity that our native language seems tongue-tied about. Reading Bruce Rowlison’s 1981 book on Creative Hospitality I read this:

“In the German, the word for hospitality is  Gastfreundschaft  which means ‘the freedom of the guest.'”

Henri Nouwen picks up the same idea in some of his writing, connecting hospitality with the freedom to express, to be, and to feel.

Think of how you can create spaces and times where your neighbors have “the freedom of the guest”. How can you invite people into your home and provide an atmosphere of freedom? Think of ways to provide space and time where they can relax, feel no pressure, and know that they are among friends who love rather than judge.

3 thoughts on “Gastfreundschaft: “the freedom of the guest”

  1. Do not have an idea of what that would look like. When we invite it is usually for a meal plus an hour or two on either side for chit chat / fellowship. Maybe we have an idol called privacy. We do not want our neighbors just walking into our house any time.

    Have talked to a student from an area along Africa’s NW coast who said he would go over to a neighbor’s house anytime and was always welcome. If he showed up at meal time they made room for him with joy. If he showed up mid afternoon, he might grab a snack (not American type snack) in the kitchen and he was warmly greeted. He called them friends…beautiful people…Christians…they sort of looked over him like a second set of parents. He claimed Christ, too. He spoke much more about his neighbors than his parents…


    1. Your friend’s experience in Africa is completely foreign to our western hyper-individualism but it is a beautiful picture is it not? What would it look like for each of our families to move down the continuum toward that picture and away from our castle enclaves? That is the question that each of us needs to wrestle with.


  2. The Amos Williams family of Augusta, KS was kind of like that back in the 70s. My parents were going through a divorce. It was kind of hectic on the home front. I ate many meals there and took a lot of Sunday afternoon naps on their living room floor. None of them ever ate at my house. I stopped by there many times un-announced and do not remember ever being turned away.

    Amos Williams was the pastor of the local Nazarene Church. I met them primarily through their son, David, 4-5 years older than me. It was at the alter of that Nazarene Church that I accepted the shed blood of Christ to cleans me from sin.
    That kind of hospitality I have never duplicated…but that kind of hospitality made an impact on my life though I did not consider it so much back then…


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