At any time and in any culture, offering hospitality and inviting the stranger in is a powerful testimony to the love and welcome of God. And, it’s a beautiful invitation for us as Christians.
Searching Google for the definition of “hospitality” gives this, “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” “Hospitality” derives from the Latin word “hospes” meaning both visitor and stranger. In this Reflection I invite you to consider the welcome to the Gospel and to the love of God which is embodied in the practice of hospitality – especially to those who are different from us or who are on the margins. Hospitality can bridge the fractures and fault lines we see in America, in our communities, and our churches. With that in mind I’d like to offer a couple of quotes and a few scriptures that have been meaningful to me and I think speak to all of us.
You may want to begin Romans 12:9-13 which in the New Living Translation (NLT) ends with “Always be eager to practice hospitality.” Telling the church to consider the times in which we live, in 1 Peter 4:7-11 (NLT) Peter encourages us to “Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.”
Speaking aptly to this American cultural moment, Rosaria Butterfield in The Gospel Comes with a House Key asks:
Who else but Bible-believing Christians can make redemptive sense of a tragedy? Who can see hope in the promises of God when the real, lived circumstances look dire? Who else knows that the sin that will undo me is my own, not my neighbor’s, no matter how big my neighbor’s sin may appear?
And where else but a Christian home should neighbors go in times of unprecedented crisis? Where else is it safe to be vulnerable, scared, lost, hopeless? (p. 19)
As Christians we can, through the love that God has poured into our lives, provide such a place to our neighbors, those who are among us regardless of political views, beliefs, or circumstances treating them as we would ourselves and welcoming them as we would want to be welcome, accepted, and cared for (see Leviticus 19: 33, 34; Matthew 7:12; Romans 5: 3-5).
Practicing hospitality can be more than just expressing love and acceptance we have received through Jesus. It can also root and grow in the lives of others. In one of his stories of Port William, Wendell Berry writes of hospitality and a home:
Of all the houses that I knew as a child, this one was the most welcoming, not because of its conveniences, which were unusual for the time and place, but because of the generosity of Granny and Granddaddy. I think it had always been a welcoming house. I know it had been so at least as far back as the time of Ben and Nancy Feltner, Granddaddy’s parents, long dead but known familiarly still, even to me, as Pa and Ma Feltner. Granny and Granddaddy seem to have inherited the welcoming along with the house. The house, you might say, had the habit of hospitality. Andy Catlett – Early Travels, p. 90.
One more scripture for reflection. In Matthew 25: 34-40 (NLT), telling of the welcome His true followers will receive Jesus says, “Come you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. … I was a stranger and you invited me into your home. … When you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters you were doing it to me.”