The Sunday adult class that meets at 9:30 am has been meeting on the theme of "radical hospitality" for the month of September. There are wonderful examples of hospitality in the Old Testament: Abraham and Sarah welcoming the three visitors at the Oaks of Mamre; Joseph welcoming the brothers who had sold him into bondage when they came to Egypt seeking help in a seven-year drought; and the widow of Zarephath giving the prophet Elijah her last food as she prepared to die of starvation. Hospitality is a foundational ethic in the Old Testament, but there is no word for hospitality to be found there.
The New Testament has a word for hospitality. The Greek word is philoxenia: love of the stranger. Now contrast that with the spirit of our age, xenophobia. Once again, the ethos of the followers of Jesus is put in stark contrast with the principalities and powers of this world. The church is called to welcome the stranger, to befriend and love the alien. Biblical hospitality is an act of subversion against the xenophobia of our age.
Our world is experiencing the greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War, and everywhere we see a backlash against compassion to these refugees where the primary motive is fear. In the New Testament, the word hospitality is rightly understood as an oxymoron. "Befriend the stranger." "Treat the stranger as a friend." Remember that love is the antidote to fear: "Perfect love casts out fear" ( ). By the same measure philoxenia casts out xenophobia; hospitality casts out the fear of the stranger.
Throughout the Bible, people who welcome the stranger experience the presence of God: "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. ( )
On the night of Easter, Jesus is revealed to the disciples in the breaking of the bread only after he is beckoned to join them for a meal and shelter for the night. ( )
The Book of Hebrews exhorts the faithful: "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it." ( )
If you are wondering where God is in your life, the Bible points you in one clear direction. Go and show hospitality to the stranger. There you will find the presence of God.
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