In the Hebrew bible, the command to ‘love the stranger’ appears more than thirty times. The roots of the biblical emphasis on welcoming the stranger lay in Israel’s experiences of being foreigners and outsiders themselves. It is easier to love those who we see as similar to us but the unique call of God for the church is to love and welcome those who have a different perspective, culture, faith, skin color, or background. This is the radical hospitality of Jesus: to love and welcome the stranger as ourselves and, hereby, to make room for the presence of Christ in our world.
Exodus 23:9 “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.”
Leviticus 19:34 “‘The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.”
Romans 12:13 “Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.”
“Hospitality is the practice of providing a space where the stranger is taken in and known as one who bears gifts.” Ana Maria Pineda.
- Tell of a time when you have been welcomed. Where were you? What did you feel and why? Who contributed to your experience?
- Tell of a time when you have not been welcomed or felt like you did not belong. Where were you? What did you feel and why? Who contributed to your experience?
- Read aloud the theme summary, passages, and quote above. What do they suggest about the kind of hospitality God calls the church to extend to the world? Does this seem radical to you? Do you know what it feels like to be a stranger? Does this understanding of hospitality challenge or surprise you? Why or why not?
- Think about stories of Jesus welcoming people. How did he treat those who were considered outsiders and outcasts ? How did those in power react to him? What was radical about Jesus’ behavior?
- The word translated as ‘hospitality’ in the New Testament, Philoxenia , literally means ‘love of stranger.’ It’s opposite is Xenophobia which means ‘fear of the stranger or foreigner.’ Can you identify examples of philoxenia and xenophobia in our world…in today’s church?
- Who are the people in your life (neighborhood, school, workplace, church) or in our world (this city, country, or beyond) who are not like you in some way? What are some ways you can extend hospitality to strangers in your daily life? In what ways can we extend hospitality to strangers?
Weekly challenge: Walk through your neighborhood note the people of different races, cultures, ages, backgrounds, and economic groups. List the groups of strangers that are currently not being welcomed. Identify some of the barriers to their inclusion and begin thinking of practical ways to show better hospitality.