By Tricia Worsham
Recently, I attended a baby shower for a good friend of mine. I am in the time of my life where I attend many showers, and most of them are filled with people that I know or am at least acquainted with, but that was not the case at this shower. I only knew one person plus the mom-to-be and for a while at the beginning, I didn’t know anyone at all. Typically I’m more than happy to jump in and make myself useful, but in this scenario, I didn’t even know where to start. I felt so out of place on every level.
For a couple of months prior to this event, I had been researching the idea of Biblical hospitality and what that practically looks like today. There are a couple of different Greek words used in the Bible for hospitality. One of them is “philoxenos” which means “hospitable, generous to guests” – what I would expect this word to mean. But what really got me started down this path was a different Greek word: “philoxenia,”, a word that simply means , “the love of strangers.” This struck me. My understanding of hospitality was entertaining guests in your home who were typically at least acquaintances, not complete strangers. What exactly is the modern definition of hospitality? Webster’s defines it as “The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors and strangers.” There it was again…strangers.
There are multiple passages where philoxenia is used in the Bible. In Romans 12:13, after Paul talks about the spiritual gifts, he mentions some things that all followers of Jesus are called to do and he says, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” The next verse related to hospitality that really stood out to me was Hebrews 13:2 (NIV) which says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” So that just solidified it for me – we must love strangers.
Researching all of this made me realize that hospitality is not simply the act of entertaining people in my home; it is an intention of the heart and a way of life. Every person is made in the image of God and has intrinsic value because of that. And our purpose in life is to be a reflection of Christ to this world and love others and treat them like they have value . When you simply say hello and shake the hand of a stranger, you are recognizing them as worthy of your time and that is a good place to start.
To take it to the next level, we are called to look out for each others’ well-being by taking care of their needs. In Matthew 25:31-40, Jesus talks about how if we feed, clothe or invite in a stranger, we are doing that as unto Him. So any practical way that we help provide care for another human, we are loving Jesus.
Hospitality is not always inviting someone into your home, but also looking for ways to meet the needs of complete strangers when you are out and about during your day. I realize now that I could have shown hospitality at the baby shower by bringing a small hostess gift to the party in order to introduce myself to her, thank her for efforts, and offer my assistance. That would have been an avenue for me to meet the needs of a stranger. Ultimately, hospitality is our call from the Lord to welcome others into his kingdom of unconditional love, grace, care, and joy as much as we can while we are here on this earth in preparation for the time to come.
1. Is loving strangers something that comes easily to you? Why or why not?
2. What are some ways you can show hospitality to a stranger?
3. How is showing love to a stranger different than showing love to people who are close to you?
4. Can you think of a time you acted lovingly toward someone you didn’t know? What was their reaction? How did you feel?
5. Can showing hospitality to strangers ever be a bad thing? If so how?
6. How can we protect against negative outcomes?