If you turn on the news today, it is easy to become frightened. It is understandable that we might distrust any stranger that comes our way. How should we respond to a frequently hostile world? How do we turn the other cheek as Jesus commanded?
One way is through the simple act of hospitality. Hospitality (kindness to guests and strangers) was and is one of the main ways Christians have shown the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.
Being inhospitable is one of the central problems in the Bible. Christ wept for Jerusalem as he sought to bring them into his life as a mother hen to her chicks. Israel refused. They refused the hospitality of God again and again (Luke 13:33–35).
Christ continually calls out to his enemies to join a party (the marriage supper of the lamb, see Matt. 22:1–12). As those who were once strangers and aliens, Christ calls us now to participate in his mission, calling us to care for the widow and orphan (James 1:26–27). We are called to attend strangers at our door like Abraham attended the angels of the Lord (Heb. 13:1–3). We may even find ourselves entertaining angels.
The kind of hospitality that Scripture has in mind is very different from what many people think of today. Usually, when people talk about hospitality, they are referring to entertaining guests. People pick and choose whom they want to have over. It is usually someone of similar class or educational level. This hospitality is not really done to strangers. It is often designed to impress and gain favors.
Biblical hospitality is very different. Biblical hospitality transcends class or race. This gospel-hospitality is a direct response to what God has done and is doing. God’s unmerited favor toward us allows us to love the unlovable around us, giving them the best seat at the table. Like the angels Abraham unknowingly served, Jesus himself is served when we serve our brothers and sisters, especially in their need.
"I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me." Then the righteous will answer him, saying, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?" And the King will answer them, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." (Matt. 25:36-40)
When we serve each other, even strangers, we serve God himself!
Hospitality is desperately needed in our day. It is very easy to close our hearts off from others by placing our own comfort at the center of life, rather than the comfort of others. In doing so, we end up closing ourselves off from vulnerability, openness, and love. This way of life ends up hurting us in the end because we have been made for each other.
Turning off the noise to find God: What a radical thing it would be in our day if we turned off all the noise that surrounds us to make time and space for others—the neglected and the hopeless. God became a stranger in his own world and was abandoned by everyone to bring us into his love, so we might share that hope with those around us. And who knows? We may even entertain angels unawares (Heb. 13:1–3).