‘If there is any concept worth restoring to its original depth and evocative potential, it is the concept of hospitality.’ Henri Nouwen
So today we looked at the subject of hospitality during our teaching time at QBC and the key element in all of what we discussed was that true biblical hospitality speaks to us of loving the stranger – or the ‘other’ – in the same way as we would our own family. Not throwing them a bone, giving them a back seat somewhere and telling them to be quiet, but inviting them to participate fully in our community.
Our most common perception of hospitality is that of having our friends around for a meal – which is great – I’m not saying we should stop that – but the primary idea of hospitality all through scripture is focused on the ones who are not ‘in’. Remember Jesus words at the Pharisees party in Luke 14?…
12 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. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
What do you do with that idea?…
He then goes to to repeat it and this is the flavour of Jesus teaching and actions all through his ministry.
The word ‘philoxenoi’ which is translated ‘hospitable’ in numerous places in the NT (see 1 Peter 4:9, Heb 13:2, Titus 1:8) comes from the two words ‘philao’ = brotherly love and xeno = stranger. (I’m sure I haven’t written the exactly right greek words there, but you get the idea.)
When hospitality is about loving the stranger – and is also integral to the life of the church – then it radically reshapes how we go about our communal life.
As I was preparing for this I read the excellent book Making Room -Recovering Hospitalty as Christian Tradition by Christine Pohl. It is easily accessible and helps us see the biblical idea of hospitality (as opposed to our common view) and shows how hospitality has shifted from a first century biblical framing to what we now have. But she also goes on to show how we can reclaim this essential practice in the world as we now find it.
It was provocative, inspiring and challenging, so well worth the read if you’d like to grapple with a biblical perspective on loving the stranger in what is currently a disturbingly xenophobic society. And what was interesting and encouraging was that in our discussion today the one to define biblical hospitality accurately was a 16 year old boy!
You can listen here if you missed it