We all know how much it means to be made to feel welcome in a new place… or not. In fact, the one thing almost always keeps first time visitors to a church from ever returning is that “no one said anything” to them. We feel unwanted, invisible, awkward, out-of-place. And this one little example is just the tip of the proverbial we-talk-a-good-game-about-hospitality-but-don’t-really-practice-it iceberg.
Over and over again, in our churches, our neighborhoods, our schools, our communities and our country, people are discriminated against, shunned, bullied, profiled, targeted, avoided, slandered and kicked out, for being different.
And yet, hospitality is a Biblical imperative. Do people not understand this? HOSPITALITY IS A BIBLICAL IMPERATIVE!
These are the scripture passages I used yesterday:
1 Peter 4:9 “Be mutually hospitable without complaining.”
Leviticus 19:33 “Do not mistreat the foreigners who reside in your land.”
But then there are so many others:
- Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.
- Love your neighbor as yourself.
- Love your enemy.
- I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me to drink.
- Lot welcoming the two strangers.
- Rahab protecting the Israelite spies.
- Martha (and Mary, sort of) feeding the disciples.
I could go on and on. Plus, one author I read said there are at least thirty-six warnings to the Israelites in the Old Testament to remember their obligation to the alien, the widows and the orphans.
(For the full audio version, click here.)
So, what is it that keeps us from offering hospitality to others? This is the question I asked the congregation yesterday, and these are some of the answers:
- Fear of others who look different, talk different, act different
- Fear of being scammed
- We need to take care of ourselves first
- We don’t want to create dependency
- Fear of being taken advantage of
- Too busy
- Scarcity – I don’t have enough to share
- Greed – I don’t want to share
- Drill it into our kids not to talk to strangers
- Don’t know what to do, don’t have enough opportunities
- Out of our comfort zone
The way of our world these days and all of these issues made me ponder whether hospitality is just impractical these days? Is it just a worn out and outdated concept? Or maybe people of every age have struggled with this, which doesn’t make it impractical, just challenging.
There are many examples out there – in churches, families, and communities – of hospitality. Many have had to fight against opposition, but have done so because they believed in the interconnectedness of all people. They believed in God’s love of everyone and the transformative power of reaching out to help another or be kind to another.
There are many examples of beautiful hospitality inside and outside of the church. People giving of themselves, their time, their resources. People risking, daring to care, getting out of their comfort zones, challenging the doubters and the critics, doing what feels right and good in their hearts. These people and programs inspire me and challenge me to question myself, my own behavior, my own fears. It challenges me to watch for opportunities to step out.
Will we risk showing up? Will we show hospitality without complaining? Will we give of our gifts generously? Will we see ourselves in the foreigners? Will we practice the spiritual discipline of hospitality wherever we are? These are the questions we each have to answer.