The door closes after the last neighbor as Elisa and I exchange exhausted exhalations and watch our hyper kids run joyfully from room to room. It was our fourth Christmas gathering in two weeks. We had hosted our neighborhood, our church small group, our church youth group, and the high school band’s concert after-party.
Why had we done this? Why had we seemingly overextended ourselves and welcomed so many different people into our home?
Why would you ever consider inviting people into your space? I hope you will practice hospitality because you’re interested in building community with others, but have you ever defined what hospitality truly is, and thought through the reasons you would spend your time and resources on others in this way?
Let’s take a few moments and do that together. I’ll transparently share my definition and thoughts and welcome you to join the discussion.
What Is Hospitality?
I use the definition of the Greek word philoxenos that is found in the Bible, in Romans 12:13, where the Apostle Paul's words are translated into English as saying to “practice hospitality.” I’m a pastor at a local church, and if you hadn’t known that about me, the previous sentence probably caught you a bit off-guard.
So, what does philoxenos mean? It's a compound word in which philo = love and xenos = stranger. Thus, the true meaning of the word “hospitality” is actually “love of strangers”.
This definition makes it clear that truly practicing hospitality is not hanging out with family and friends, though that’s wonderful, and that hospitality demands a new level of inclusion that is rarely practiced.
The Big Why
Now that we’ve defined hospitality as the love for strangers, there’s still the lingering question of why we would ever practice hospitality! These are strangers who not only haven’t done anything to deserve our love, but might be serial killers!
Practicing hospitality brings benefits to you and your family and that’s a good reason, but that’s not my why.
Practicing hospitality brings new friendships into existence and there is rarely anything more valuable, but that’s not my why.
To fully explain my why, I have to remind you again that I’m a pastor fully committed to following Jesus. My why is deeply rooted in the story of God’s creation of a world designed to bless all people. We turned out to be the very worst guests in the history of hospitality as we pronounced our new ownership of our Host’s house and began destroying His home and each other. The next part of this story is how God once again extends an invitation to all people to sit at His table and enjoy His provisions, even though it means He must pay all that is owed to repair the broken relationship. He makes this ultimate payment through the death of Jesus on the cross, and we can receive that gift through faith in Him.
I practice hospitality because I have received hospitality.
When I’m exhausted, I’m reminded of how far Jesus went to extend an invitation to me and welcome me to His table. When I’m annoyed or somehow insulted by my guests, I remember the countless ways I’ve insulted God that go far beyond anything another human has ever done to me.
My why may not work for you or make any sense to you at all. Thanks for letting me share my motivation for why I neighbor and practice hospitality.
So why do you practice hospitality? I hope you’ll share with me your WHY at your next opportunity.