It is no secret that a disciple of Jesus is called to be servant. The bible teaches that “those who wish to be first must be last of all and servant of all”(cf. Mk. 9:35). Indeed, it’s a passage that demonstrates the need for service and the humility with which one ought to approach his fellow man. What I would like to talk about is something that stems from being a servant and that is hospitality. The word itself does not occur too frequently in the New Testament and it’s not found in the Old Testament at all. Now, that’s not to say that hospitality is less important than anything else we should be practicing. The fact that the word does not occur frequently does not signify that it wasn’t something disciples were not in the habit of doing. In fact, the practice of hospitality is seen readily on almost every page of the Old Testament and New Testament. The bible does not need to highlight the use of a word to show that the action is taking place. This is yet again another powerful illustration of loving in deed and not just in word (cf. 1 Jn. 3:18).
The word hospitality comes from a word that literally means “love of strangers.” Now, think about that for a second. The primary meaning of the word pertains to showing love and care to strangers. We often use the word hospitality when talking about loving or entertaining friends, family members and our church family. To use the word in this manner would not be wrong for so Peter admonishes us to do: “Be hospitable to one another without complaint”(1 Pet. 4:9). If we serve our friends, families and brothers and sisters in Christ by loving them, entertaining them and caring for them we do well! However, hospitality is by no means limited to love of friends or those we already love and are in our social circles. Jesus Himself said it’s easy to love those who love us, for even sinners do the same (cf. Lk. 6:32-33). If we want to be truly hospitable in the true meaning of the word, then our reach and our love must and should extend to strangers. Allow me to use a couple of examples in scripture to show where this took place.
In Genesis 18, shortly before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham encounters three men while he was sitting at the door of his tent. Abraham’s first order of business was to prepare the choicest of meals for them, to wash their feet, allow them to rest and to speak with them (cf. Gen. 18:1-8). Abraham had not met these men before nor did he know them as he would have known friends or family members. Yet this did not stop him from showing love and care to these men by giving them the best that he had and treating them as if they were family. Notice that the word hospitality or hospitable never occurs in this story but Abraham’s action truly modeled what it meant to “love strangers.”
The next example is in the next chapter over in Genesis 19:1-3. Lot was a very prominent man in Sodom as indicated by the scripture that says he was sitting in the gate of the city (cf. Gen 19:1). Two men (angels) came into the city and Lot immediately began to treat them with love and care. It was the intention of these men (angels) to spend the night in the city square but Lot would not allow it because he wanted to be hospitable to them. When they came into his home, he prepared a feast for them and took care of them just like Abraham did with the men in Genesis 18. Here again the word hospitality or hospitable is not used but do we have to have the word to clearly see that was being done was “loving strangers.”
Jesus taught strongly on this subject (without actually using the word) as a requirement by God. Part of loving one’s neighbor is to show hospitality. The seriousness of this subject is seen in Matthew 10 went Jesus sent out the twelve. In Matthew 10:9-10, notice that Jesus gave instructions for the twelve not to take too many things with them. Why did Jesus do this? How were they supposed to support and sustain themselves? Well, in verse 11 Jesus says, “And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city.” Jesus was indicating that hospitality would play an important role in this commission. Jesus expected that strangers would open their doors for these men and support them and sustain them for with such an attitude God is well pleased. Why? Because when we show love to our fellow man and in particular to “strangers” we are demonstrating our love and trust for God as well.
However, Jesus went on to say in Matthew 10:14: "Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.”Now some might say well that’s a little harsh. But it’s not! This story shows us just how much God values “love of strangers.”
There would be people who would say no to the twelve and by extension they would be saying no to God. Remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:40 when he said, “…to the extent you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me.”Hospitality is one of those things we need to think about and consider very strongly because God feels very strongly about it. Maybe I am really good about showing love and outreach to those in my inner circle but how is my love and outreach to those who are strangers?
Do we make strangers feel like they are a part of our family like Abraham and Lot did? Do we seek to show love and care to others the same we do for those who love us? Do we love our enemies and do good to those who hate us? “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it”(Heb. 13:2).