By Sara Williams
This wondrous virtue has always been very much valued from the beginning of time. It is a sacred process of receiving those we may not know and changing them from visitors to guests. During Biblical days, hospitality was a customary aspect of life. It was to a certain extent necessary, due to long distances and difficult travel and few inns to accommodate the travelers. In Genesis, we find the example of Abraham entertaining three strangers (angels), promptly going out of his tent to meet them. He offers them water to wash their feet, and wastes no time having his wife Sarah start preparing a savory meal. He personally selects a tender and good calf to be prepared as the main dish, and graciously serves them under a tree.
As people traveled between towns and cities, they were welcomed into the tents and homes of the worshipers of God. Leviticus 19:34 admonishes, "But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself . . ."
It is integral in the presentation in all the Gospels of the New Testament. The Samaritan woman invites Jesus the stranger to stay with her community, which he does in John 4. During the time of the Apostles, hospitality was greatly encouraged and was often the occasion through which key Kingdom events occurred. Paul talks about being given to hospitality in both Romans and in I Timothy, and Peter reiterates to use hospitality one to another, without grudging.
The spirit of modern hospitality is the same today as in Biblical times. It is defined in the American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster, 1830,
as, The act or practice of receiving and entertaining strangers or guests without reward, or with kind and generous liberality.
It is a dimension of our faith that is a fundamental building block of Christianity. It is associated with evangelism and our mission to go into all the world. By extending an invitation to others to experience the presence of Christ in our homes and churches, we play a part in the theology of evangelism and inviting others to become disciples of Christ. This ministry can greatly inform and empower us in God's service.
Some may be more enhanced at hospitality than others, but we all can participate in helping others feel welcome and at ease. Guests can be shown love and delight by showing a genuine interest in them. It is truly a gift to simply be available and be a good listener. This is certainly an aspect that we all can offer our guests. We are here to reflect the love of Christ. Whether we invite others to our homes, or welcome them to our church, we show them that we are Christians by our love.
As stated precisely in Hebrews 13, Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.