I’ve been thinking a great deal about how the Lord wants us to seek Him during these days and how He wants us to represent Him as ambassadors of His kingdom. Last week I shared Romans 12:9-21 as guide for how we put love into action. One verse from that passage has captured my attention over the last week. Romans 12:13 says “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”
What comes to mind when you think of hospitality? I think most of us think about the idea of opening our homes to others and entertaining others. For most of us, practicing hospitality means bringing out Grandma’s fine silver, putting our best culinary skills to work and making sure our homes are presentable to welcome others for an evening of food, fun and fellowship. For others it’s simply ordering pizza and making sure there are enough seats to watch the game. Now, there’s nothing wrong with opening our homes, but biblical hospitality is much deeper and richer than food, fun and fellowship.
When the Bible speaks of hospitality, the word used is philoxenia. This word is a combination of two words: phileo (love) and xenos (stranger). The word literally means “love of stranger.” This means that practicing hospitality is more than just opening our homes for an evening of entertainment with our friends. Biblical hospitality requires us to open our homes and our lives to strangers.
Who is a stranger?
Merriam-Webster defines a stranger as the following:
1: one who is strange: such as
a : (1) : foreigner
(2) : a resident alien
b : one in the house of another as a guest, visitor, or intruder
c : a person or thing that is unknown or with whom one is unacquainted
d : one who does not belong to or is kept from the activities of a group
e : one not privy or party to an act, contract, or title : one that interferes without right
2 : one ignorant of or unacquainted with someone or something
Who is strange to you? Who doesn’t belong? Who is unknown? I think Jesus was onto this same idea in Luke 14:12-14 when He shared the following:
Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
True hospitality is offered with little to no chance of receiving anything back. This stands in stark contrast to the way our world operates. We live in a culture of networking and connecting, usually motivated by some benefit that will return to us. Biblical hospitality is experienced when we open our homes and lives to those who have little ability or likelihood to return the favor.
How can you practice hospitality in the weeks to come? How can you practice loving strangers as an ambassador of Christ’s kingdom? I know that COVID-19 presents some unique challenges to how we may practice hospitality, but it shouldn’t stop us from opening our lives and showing love to strangers. One of the outcomes of this pandemic is the reality that many people are living lonely and isolated lives, disconnected from relationship. How do we practice hospitality with the strangers that may be all around us?
We tend to fear that which we do not know. Most of us were raised with a fear of strangers. Because of what Jesus has done in us, we now have the capacity and mandate to love the stranger. Our world is aching and fearful right now, the call to biblical hospitality is our counter-cultural response to what we see happening in our world today.
Who in your world is disconnected or unknown? Who in your world is strange? Who in your world is in need with little capacity to return thoughtfulness or kindness? Who is God calling you to open your home and life to demonstrate His loving kindness?
Let’s be praying in the weeks to come and let’s join our prayers to the practice of hospitality. Let’s be asking the Father to send us strangers to love. Let’s remember our role as ambassadors that represent His kingdom and offer an alternative to the fear and polarization that is so common in our world today.
CGGC eNews—Vol. 14, No. 42