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Have you ever heard a young person, new in their adult lives, maybe right out of college, newly-married, full of hope and some naivety, say something like this? –

“We want to use our home to bring people in and take care of them.”

There is such a good motivation behind this – the desire to love your neighbor, to welcome people in, to shepherd them.  These are good and righteous in God’s sight.

However, I think that some of the time, the person who says this really doesn’t know what it means to be hospitable.

What We Mean in the U.S. When We Say Hospitality

As Americans, when we say hospitality, it usually consists of the following:dining room

  • Having your friends over for dinner
  • Being really friendly
  • Hosting a Bible study
  • Being patient when someone’s child breaks something in your home

These are all very good things.  We need to do these things.

But let’s look at what the Bible actually says about hospitality.

The Importance of Hospitality

First, let’s look at the importance of the subject.  The Bible tells us that we need to do it.  There’s really no other way around it.

Our #faith has never promised safety. Click To Tweet

1 Timothy 3:2-5 and Titus 1:7-8 tell us that the qualifications for elders included hospitality.  1 Timothy 5:9-10 tell us that widows who were going to be supported by the church had to have shown a lifestyle of hospitality.

Romans 12:9-13 and 1 Peter 4:8-9 speak of humility and honoring others and that we must practice hospitality.

What exactly is Hospitality?

But we gotta look to the Scriptures to tell us exactly what hospitality is.

The Greek word is actually “Philoxenos”.  Broken down, “philo” means “love”, and “xenos” means “stranger”.  The word literally means “love of strangers”.

Wait, what?  Strangers?  But I host at least once a week.  I mean, yeah, they’re all my friends I have over, but I can’t really just have strangers over.  That could be dangerous.

Right?

#Hospitality in the Greek is Philoxenos. It literally means 'love of strangers'. Click To Tweet

Hebrews 13:1-3 directly speaks to showing hospitality to strangers.  And even further, it includes taking care of prisoners.  Then Matthew 25:31-46 reports that Jesus Himself is helped when we take care of strangers in need.

Look at the wildly convicting section in Luke 14:12-14.  Have you ever had someone over for dinner for the very specific reason that you wanted something from them?  Be honest.  I have.

Photo credit: docpop / Foter / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: docpop / Foter / CC BY-SA

In Leviticus 19:33-34, God tied the Israelites’ hospitality to the fact that they were strangers in Egypt.  For them, it included humility and love for foreigners.  It was a part of who the Israelites were, their identity.

Yeah, all these strangers and foreigners could be dangerous, but our faith has never promised safety.

These are some of the things we see throughout Scripture that people did as acts of hospitality:

  • Letting strangers stay for a night or a few nights, taking care of all their needs.
  • Literally feeding a stranger their last bit of food they had for their family.
  • Sending strangers off with supplies and transportation.
  • Feeding the poor in the community with the food for the full meal they shared for the Lord’s Supper.
  • Washing the feet of those who come into their home.
  • Giving visitors the best wine.

And if we only want to take care of our friends, then we run the risk of being the guy showing favoritism from James 2:2-4.  I know this passage has put me in my place in the past.

How Should We Do It Today?

Obviously, we still believe that it is good and right to take care of those inside your church and to show hospitality to your friends.

But we can’t neglect the largest part of hospitality, Scripturally-speaking, by ignoring strangers.

A lot of us don’t have contact with people outside of family, work and church.  So how do we even get strangers in the door, let alone take care of them?  Moreover, our culture encourages keeping to yourself.  Most of us don’t even know our neighbors.

Here are a few ideas:

Start by meeting your neighbors.  This is actually really simple.  You see them walking their dog or taking walks themselves.  Start up a conversation.  Mow their lawn.  Bring them cookies.

Meet people in the park.  If you have kids, hopefully, you get to bring them to the park.  This is a great place to meet other young families who are going through the same difficulties of raising young children.  Having them over for an afternoon and taking care of them could go a long way in their minds.

Partner with your local homeless shelter.  If you don’t know the poor and needy in your community, you’ve got to find a way to learn what needs exist.  This is a relatively simple way to meet those without a home.  Offer them yours.hope

Host a community event.  Organize a block party.  Hold a concert in your back yard.  Carve pumpkins in October.  There are so many things you can do to meet the people in your community.  If they are people, then they have needs.  And a relationship with them is the beginning of being able to help with those needs.

Feed the poor with the Lord’s Supper.  Going back to the First-century, the early church had a full meal as their celebration of the Lord’s Supper.  And they were instructed to bring extra food so that they could literally feed the poor with it.  This is a beautiful model to emulate.

Practice an open home.  This one is more of a mindset than an actual task.  Having people into your home can be emotionally draining sometimes.  You often have to prepare mentally before doing it.  If you are willing to have people over at any time, then the mental-preparedness has to be there.  In other words, just be ready to take someone in at all times.

Conclusion

If we accurately understand hospitality, then we will not only take care of our friends, family, and church.  We will also take care of strangers.

It is what the Good Samaritan did.

Our churches will be incomplete without everybody participating in hospitality.

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