Over the last few weeks we have been studying the concept of ‘hospitality’. The Biblical word for ‘hospitality’ is broken down into two words. The Biblical word for hospitality breaks down into two words. The first word derives from xen, which means foreign or strange. Xenophobia is the fear of strangers. Hospitality, however, means quite the opposite as xenophobia. The second word is phileo which means love. It's the type of love shown to friends and family. One translation of this word comes from the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament describes this type of love as a way “to treat somebody as one of one’s own people.” Therefore, we have been translating hospitality this way: loving a stranger in such a way that you make that person family.
The Church can learn much from this compound word. When I Peter 2:9 challenges the church to practice hospitality, it is not such a simple thing as a smile or a handshake. It is not about a greeter at the door, an usher in the aisle, or the coffee after church. These are acts of kindness and could be fruit of hospitality, but it is not hospitality. Hospitality is something much deeper and richer. It has to do with loving another from the inside out. It has to do with loving the ‘strange’, and that feels, well, strange. Hospitality has to do with loving someone by looking through preferences and seeing their heart. When hospitality is done well, than a sense of ‘belonging’ or ‘feeling part of’ is the result. No matter what ethnicity or preferential option; no matter if people wear suits or tattoos, Jesus Christ broke through dividing walls of hostility in order to create a family for hospitality.
As we set the DNA of this church plant, the goal is to practice hospitality in such a way that strangers will feel like family. We do not do that perfectly. It is risky business. It may not always work. People may still feel disconnected. The goal, however, is to keep loving.
In my next blog, I intend to write about how hospitality and holiness intersect. I mention this because I do not want readers to get the impression that love=acceptance. Hospitality captures the essence of acceptance. Love, however, is about obedience to Jesus, and practicing hospitality is all about obeying Jesus. Love is about obedience to Jesus, and it is this obedience that sets the Church apart from the world.
Before we explore this concept, the challenge remains to understand and accept people through hospitality. This is often so difficult because we have one of two inner animals that suck in or puff out. In other words, our inner tortoise hides from people we fear and our inner peacock puffs out from those we deem lower on our fabricated social ladders.
Our inner tortoise and peacock slip in and out of our minds without warning, and the goal is to die to both of them. Before we explore that concept, however, feel free to take time to think through what it means to love your stranger. What does that look like for you? Which strangers do you fear? Which strangers do you look down on? In other words, when does your inner peacock come out to some? Or when do you crawl into your shell to others?