The Greek word for hospitality is philoxenia (filoxenia, I think, if you have the Symbol font installed, and aren't on Firefox, which seems to refuse to render it), literally "love of strangers." We have an opposite word in English: xenophobia, fear of or aversion to strangers or foreigners. And Jesus uses one of the root words in Matthew 25:35: "I was a stranger (xenos) and you welcomed me."
Rick notes that whilte what we usually call hospitality -- having friends over for a meal -- is certainly a good thing (and I would add that it is not an abuse of our English word), it really isn't biblical philoxenia. The simplest way American Christians could attempt that sort of hospitality, it seems to me, would be to be prepared to invite visitors to lunch after church on Sundays. Don't wait 'til that new family's been visiting for a month before waiting to have them over for a meal. Rick paints another corner of the picture when he notes that hospitality is about using your resources to meet a need that the other person cannot easily meet. The church is more than a meeting on Sunday morning, and a newcomer simply cannot meet his own need to experience the fuller community of the church.
I read an article once by a fellow -- I don't know if he was a believer, but he certainly had some insight we could use -- who had done a personal survey of various churches, rating them on various factors. They got points for how well they did music, preaching, etc. But the most points they could get for one factor -- 50, I think -- was for an invitation to lunch after the service. Sadly, I don't think this fellow was ever able to award those points.
Why is that? Why is hospitality to strangers such a rarity among American Chirsitians? I think we are good at excuses (and I've used most of these at one time or other, so I'm preaching to myself here!):
"I can't prepare a meal ahead of time not knowing whether or not or how many might be coming to lunch!" We're confusing hospitality and entertainment. The point is not to produce an impressive meal. Having sandwich supplies on hand that you could serve to guests on Sunday or use for your own family's lunches through the week wouldn't be that hard.
"I can't afford it." Oh, please. What a lame excuse in this nation. Why is it that we so often hear visitors to poor countries remark on the hospitality they experienced there -- people sharing out of what little they have? Remember the story about the baboons?
"I would have people over, but the kids would annoy them." Someone actually said this to me once. First of all, you are betraying your own belief that children are a burden an a nuisance, and your assumption that others think likewise. Second, you are depriving your potential guests (the comment was made in the context of a discussion about showing hospitality to single folks in the church) of something they really can't provide for themselves -- the learning experience of observing a godly family in action and the blessing of being able to participate in family activities.
"The house is a mess." Here's my Grade A, Number One excuse. And if we turn it on its head we see why poor housekeeping isn't just a personality quirk, it's a sin. It gets in the way of obeying God's command to be hospitable.
"We're too busy." Well, stop being so busy. Like unto the previous point, if something you are doing is keeping you from obeying God, then it is sin.
And the list could go on, but you get the gist.
After-church lunch is just one simple way of showing love to strangers. What are some others you can think of? Posted by Valerie (Kyriosity) at 4/14/2005 10:34:00 AM
• • Permalink