The term hospitality conjures up significantly different images for different people. Unfortunately, the term has been reduced in many minds to the concept of entertaining friends, family, and “special” guests. The biblical theme of hospitality is, in fact, much different and much richer.
The biblical concept of hospitality is perhaps best defined in the concept of making room for the stranger. The biblical account is full of individuals who found themselves as strangers in a foreign land, and foreigners who welcomed strangers into their personal space.
Abraham was a stranger who, when he left his home, “…went out, not knowing where he was going” (see Heb 11:8). In return Abraham welcomed three strangers who appeared outside his tent in the heat of the day (see Gen 18:1ff). Rahab was a harlot who would have certainly been alienated in her own society. In return she hid the spies of Israel in her own own home (see Josh 2:1ff). Elijah received hospitality as a stranger from a Shunammite woman (see 2 Kings 4:10). In return he sought what he might be able to do for her (see 2 Kings 4:13).
It would seem that those who were most ready to offer hospitality to strangers were those who most easily identified with the plight of the stranger. Indeed, that is still true with us today. In as much as we are able to remember our own personal alienation from God we are able to stand in solidarity with those who feel most disconnected from His love. God reminded the Israelites of this, “You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Ex 23:9).
If there is one single place where the stranger should feel most welcomed it should be in the House of God. More than any other place the church should reflect God’s gracious welcoming. After all, God is the host of His house, and we are all simply guests of His grace. Is this true in our church? If not, are we ready to repent and correct it?