Romans 12:9-13. Let love be genuine…seek to show hospitality.
What comes to mind when you hear the word hospitality? Maybe it’s the hotel industry, or an immaculate table setting at a dinner party, or when the sunday school class Christmas party happens in someone’s house.
The problem is that what we usually think of as hospitality is often falls short of genuine (not fake) love. Unfortunately, hospitality is often about impressing others more than loving others. We can make it about looking good to our friends instead of welcoming a stranger into our lives and turning them into a friend.
When we look at what hospitality really means, especially in Paul’s day, we can see that it is definitely part of being a “living sacrifice,” and showing genuine love to others.
Hospitality: Greek word philoxenia = the love of strangers or outsiders.
Seek to show: Greek word dioko = to pursue, chase, or run after. To press on or reach a goal. This word is even translated as “to persecute.” (so kill with kindness??)
Lone Survivor: a story of pursuing hospitality.
Paul’s language is strong. For him hospitality was a big deal. He’ll even say that a person can’t be a pastor if they don’t practice hospitality. In ancient contexts people didn’t stay in hotels or inns, which were often shady places. Instead they relied on the hospitality of people in the community. As a missionary, Paul would have depended on hospitality to survive (you can read all kinds of examples in the book of Acts). Jesus too depended on the hospitality of others. He was often strengthened for ministry at the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus in Bethany.
So what does true hospitality look like? For sure it is inviting others over, eating together and housing others. But again this is not to be limited to only those that we are related to or are already friends with. In her book The Gospel Comes With a House Key, Rosaria Butterfield distinguishes between entertaining and hospitality. When the line separating host and guest is strengthened that is not true hospitality. This line should be blurred so that over time a person moves from being a stranger, to a friend, to family. She also emphasizes that true hospitality will be inconvenient, and probably should be in order for it to be genuine love. Over time the feeling of inconvenience will eventually go away and be replaced with genuine love. Philoxenia should turn into philadelphia and philostorgos.
God himself is the most hospitable being in the universe. Christian, you have received the greatest philoxenia ever. God took in a bunch of outsiders, enemies even, and turned us into family. Because we are IN CHRIST we are welcomed to the table of God. God is not just our host, he is our dad, our bridegroom. In Christ, the line between host and guest has been blurred into non-existence.
Christian you are also called to hospitality. Why? Because CHRIST IS IN YOU. Jesus’ whole life and mission is about turning strangers into friends and then into family. It’s why he lived and died and lives again. It is not an overstatement to say that hospitality is the most effective evangelistic strategy that we have been given by God. It IS his strategy: stranger- friend- family. Love them as a stranger. Love them as a friend. Love them as family.
It all starts with an invitation. It all starts with “to live is Christ.” Who will you show hospitality to this Easter? Who in your community is still a stranger? With whom can you share your home and heart? How can you be empowered by God’s hospitality toward you?