Hospitality! It’s an interesting word. There are many words related such as hospital, hospice, host, hotel, and hostel. They all come from the Latin root word “hospes” which means host, guest or stranger. The core idea is welcoming a stranger and offering food, shelter, and safety.
There are many scriptures that encourage hospitality like Romans 12:13b – Practice hospitality. 1 Peter 4:9 – Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Then there’s the fascinating instruction found in Hebrews 13:2 – Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. When this was written some 2000 years ago, there were few motels and restaurants. So when people traveled, they relied on others, often strangers, to provide food and housing.
Let’s dig a bit deeper. Who is a stranger? It’s someone you don’t know, for sure. 2000 years ago, they were from somewhere other than your village and even from a different culture and background. The stranger was usually different!
In our day, a stranger can be someone we simply don’t know. But they could be someone very different from us. They may be “strange” to us because they are from a different racial, cultural, economic, political, religious or educational background. Why would we be guided by the Bible to open our lives to someone very different from us? Could it be that as we open ourselves to those who are different, God might be teaching us how to love our neighbor who is different? Could it be the Spirit might be opening us up to ideas, values, and insights that are “foreign” to us? Maybe the practice of true hospitality could help us learn to be open to others and welcome differences, welcome the dreams of others, be hospitable and generous with grace, and be a host to something surprising that God has for us and our “guests.” We don’t have to agree with or even like all that a stranger brings, but we can learn to welcome them and expand our perspectives.
Did you catch the end of Hebrews 13:2 – some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. I believe in literal angelic beings and I’ve assumed this passage was asking me to entertain anyone because the guest just might be an actual angel. However, could there be a second meaning to entertaining angels we are unaware of? The word “angel” means messenger and that’s the role of some angels like Gabriel. Could Hebrews 13:2 suggest that these “strangers” could be real human beings who bring us a message from God? Could this different kind of person we welcome into our lives open a door of understanding? Maybe if we intentionally connected with the stranger, someone different from us, we might learn something new about ourselves, about God and about faith and grace that we would never learn anywhere else. Just maybe….
Here’s a chance to enter the world of someone different. Our mission partner, Heartbeat for Africa is having a short-term trip to West Africa on July 15 -27, 2019. There’s an information meeting THIS Sunday (3/17) at 10:15 am in Discover (room 2 off the courtyard). Go and check out this opportunity to show hospitality to a stranger and see what God might do!