Hospitality is a word and concept we studied this morning in Bible class. The Greek word for hospitality is “philoxenos” which means love (philos) strangers (xenos). We considered many things during class in regards to what hospitality is, what our motivation should be towards hospitality, what prohibits us (or we allow to prohibit us) from being hospitable, who we mean when we say “strangers”, and several other shared thoughts and examples. To cover all of it in this post would not be possible. With that said, take time and read Romans 12 and Hebrews 13:2 and meditate on this idea of loving strangers. Think about who a stranger is in your life…not just those in the world but who do you need to get to know better and show love towards within your church family?
For the remainder of this post, let’s look at 1 Peter 4:9 where we find the word philoxenos. In chapter four of this book, Peter continues teaching Christians how to live in knowing that the end of all things is near and more specifically how to live “the rest of their time” …not in the flesh but in the will of God. Peter first commands them to keep their minds clear and alert and be prayerful. Next Peter tells them to have fervent love for each other noting that “love will cover a multitude of sins” (Proverb 10:12).
In verse nine, Peter directs Christians to demonstrate love by offering hospitality without grumbling, or begrudgingly or in a selfish manner. In class, we discussed the different ways this might take place and even though we might think it is limited to what we might see as the standard today in terms of having people in our homes, visiting others, serving those in the community, etc. But God is saying here through Peter is that we should be prepared to love and we should love with the gifts that God has given each individual. That is the awesome part of the body…that its parts are different but put together are powerful. Well, in this case, if the individual takes their gift and uses it in finding ways to and then loving a stranger…that is powerful too…and that is hospitality.
In Peter’s day, Christian hospitality in great need of and could be a great burden. Many Christians were forced to flee in persecution which often meant traveling without much to take care of themselves. These refugees relied on brothers/sisters in Christ to share their homes, goods, food, etc. while hosting them as they traveled through to their destination. This kind of hospitality could be risky. It could have been that those sharing didn’t have much to begin with putting the host’s family at risk of running out themselves. Those hosting could be taken advantage of if the stranger(s) they were inviting in were not who they thought they were.
Still, Peter reminds his readers—and us—that is how family loves each other. It’s part of our purpose as God’s set-apart people. We should embrace the opportunity to give that kind of sacrificial love, instead of offering such hospitality reluctantly.
We could spend a week or two thinking about all the different ideas we covered today in class and maybe we will in the future. But for today, take 1 Peter 4:9, Romans 12, and Hebrews 13:2 and read them, pray about them. Take stock of what you are already doing and more, ask God to help move you out of your comfort zone, identify even more opportunity to love strangers, look within your brethren first, and love. God loved us first when we were strangers to Him because of sin. There is our example and motivation. Loving like Him will encourage, reflect the gospel, and provide opportunity for growth in you and in others.