Hospitality to the Foreigner

**This blog was originally posted on the Women’s Life blog May 5, 2016.

In a blog post by Benjamin Corey, he explains that the Greek term that is often translated into hospitality combines two concepts. The first is pronounced Philao and it is the word for a type of brotherly love or to love like a brother. This is like the city of Philadelphia which is known as the city of brotherly love. The second is Xenos and it actually means “stranger” or “immigrant.” This is like the English word Xenophobia which is the fear of strangers.  So we can say that a person who is hospitable is one who loves strangers/immigrants like they would love their own brother. Historically, when we look at the uses of this word we also find that it didn’t simply mean stranger or immigrant; its usage also included “enemy.”

Corey further observes that: “Hospitality is a virtue that is both commanded and commended throughout Scripture.”

Leviticus 19:33-34 says, “When a foreigner lives with you in the land, you must not oppress him. You must regard the foreigner who lives with you as the native-born among you. You are to love him as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt; I am Yahweh your God.”

According to John Piper, the phrase “I am Yahweh your God,” can be understood as God reminding His people that they were once strangers in Egypt but aren’t anymore. God came to them when they were oppressed aliens in Egypt and saved them. For the people of the Old Testament, the duty of hospitality came from the center of who God was. God’s hospitality is motivated by His unwavering commitment to the glory of His own name.

Grace is the hospitality of God to welcome sinners not because of their goodness but because of His glory. Piper says, “When we practice hospitality we experience the liberating power of God’s hospitality making us a new and radically different kind of people, who love to reflect the glory of his grace as we extend it to others in all kinds of hospitality.” In the history of God’s people, one of the God appointed duties of the RIGHTEOUS was hospitality. One of the most familiar passages is that of Abraham in Genesis 18:1-8. In the New Testament this duty for the Christian community is re-emphasized. In 1 Timothy 5, we see that the widows who received financial support from the early church, needed to have a reputation of loving strangers and immigrants like they were her own siblings. In both Titus and 1 Timothy we are told that elders must be men known for their hospitality. In Romans 12:13, the phrase “pursue hospitality” is a verb that implies continuous action/a constant attitude and practice.

Consider these Questions:

Do you currently practice hospitality to the foreigner?

Do you think about how you can draw the most people into a deep experience of God’s hospitality by the use of your home or your churches home?

Some people may feel that being hospitable to the foreigner is overwhelming. However, we must remember that the hospitality of God made us a new creation and a new people. His mission is to redeem and bring back lost humanity to Himself and therefore we have to take his call to hospitality seriously. Biblical hospitality is the practical outworking of the gospel, therefore it is non-negotiable!

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when hosting foreigners or being hosted by foreigners from my friends Lori McDaniel and Meredith Cooper that I think you will find very helpful:

  1. Remember that Americans have watches, but other cultures have time. When building friendships with foreigners, there will be a lot of awkward moments of silence that will make you feel very uncomfortable. Work hard at not rushing and just be present. In many cultures, presence communicates friendship; even in silence.
  2. Ask Questions! This communicates that you are interested in them and often will give you insight into their culture and religion. By learning about them you’ve created a safe place for them to ask you questions and this gives you the opportunity to share what you believe and why.
  3. When you visit a home accept what they offer you. A big part of hospitality is serving and to reject their offer is an insult. Hospitality is also about putting aside preferences for the sake of your guests.
  4. Remember you will make mistakes when interacting with people of other cultures. But there is grace in this and the Lord is not deterred by your mistakes. God is not interested in our abilities, He is interested in our availability.

I challenge you to take some time in prayer and ask the Lord who you need to invite into your home to share the love of Christ.

Lesley Hildreth has been married for 23 years to Scott Hildreth, the Director of the Great Commission Studies at SEBTS. They have two children Rachel (21) and Jacob (19). Lesley is also a student and pursuing an MA in Christian Studies and one of her greatest desires is to see the nations come to Christ and finds it a true honor and blessing to be a part of equipping and encouraging women to GO!
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