Rosaria Butterfield has a well-known testimony. From lesbian activist to conservative evangelical, her conversion story is a remarkable testament to the power of the gospel. Yet, her continued story as a follower of Jesus, as told in The Gospel Comes with a House Key, seems to be even more remarkable.
This book tells of Rosaria’s commitment to “radical, ordinary hospitality” and is both an encouragement and challenge for the contemporary Western Church. In a climate which sees Christians hiding behind closed doors for fear of public shame, political ineptness or social awkwardness, a revival of the basic biblical command for hospitality is in order. Rosaria does not teach this principle from a distance. She is living proof of its effectiveness —both as host and guest. It was through dinner-table fellowship that Rosaria herself encountered Jesus and that same practice is now a driving force in her Christian life.
The Gospel Comes with a House Key is founded on scripture, viewing God’s character and Christ’s ministry through the lens of hospitality. Throughout the book, Rosaria aptly reminds us, “Jesus dined with sinners but he didn’t sin with sinners”. This paradox is at the heart of understanding and overcoming our hesitancy for hospitality. Christ’s hospitality was a manifestation of grace and mercy at the sacrifice of reputation and comfort. The Church today still experiences Christ’s hospitality, in his intercession and through prayer and fellowship with his body.
The book weaves these important theological truths together with Rosaria’s own impeccable gift for story-telling. Anecdotes, sweet and sombre, give the book the same intimacy and vulnerability as the ministry it promotes. As you read, you feel as if you were at Rosaria’s kitchen bench, in amongst shopping lists, homeschool curriculums and old-friends. That is the beauty of the hospitality habits practiced by Rosaria and her family; they are unassumingly domestic and yet unbelievably powerful. As Christianity becomes increasingly sidelined in our communities, we must invite people back in—not for a debate but for dinner.
The stories documented in The Gospel Comes with a House Key are a wake-up call. Rosaria explains the purpose of Christian hospitality is “making strangers into neighbours and neighbours into family”. That is exactly what readers watch unfold time and time again in this book. As characters which seem so familiar to every neighbourhood come to the Butterfield’s house for friendship, counsel and Rosaria’s excellent cooking, they leave with a better understanding of the gospel. As people are invited to participate in a Christian family’s daily life, they are given access to the family of God. This genuine neighbourly love is a challenge to every evangelist. As Rosaria puts it, “Your words can only be as strong as the relationship”.
The Gospel Comes With a House Key is practical and applicable. Its pages should be marked and dog-eared. It should be pulled out time and time again, for reference and motivation
The Gospel Comes With a House Key is practical and applicable. Its pages should be marked and dog-eared. It should be pulled out time and time again, for reference and motivation. As Rosaria documents her daily routines, her habits, her joys and struggles, and even her go-to chilli recipes—the idea of radical hospitality seems not only obviously worthwhile but achievable. It is not an optional extra for the Butterfield family, it is a spiritual discipline for God’s glory and their good.
Hospitality is not an activity to endure under duress or practice with false enthusiasm. It is not to be done once a year when the local missionary family need somewhere to stay. For the Church, hospitality is to be an all encompassing, life-changing rhythm of daily life. It is one of our greatest tools for evangelism, discipleship and corporate worship. It can transform our hearts to be more Christ-centred and others-focused. It is countercultural, heart-breaking, joyful, and at the grassroots of what it means to be a Christian. It is the gospel in practice. The Gospel comes with a House Key is a compelling and yet gentle read which has the potential to start a revolution.