Yes, that’s right. It should scare us. And not because a surprise guest might see the pile of socks on the steps, the finger-paint handprints all over the bathroom doorknob, or might take a crunchy step upon the tiny line of marching ants that have suddenly made their home on the kitchen floor.
Hospitality should frighten us because, when we look more deeply into what it means in Scripture, we realize how much it demands of us.
And those demands have nothing to do with housekeeping.
As I explore in The Busy Mom’s Guide to Spiritual Survival, “Philoxenia is the New Testament term for “hospitality” and it’s meaning is simple: demonstrating brother-love (phileo) to strangers (xenia).”
In this sense, perhaps the two most powerful passages in Scripture about hospitality have very little (if anything) to do with one’s home. Consider Jesus’ challenging words in Matthew 25:42-25:“I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me’” (ESV).
Or just as striking, the Parable of the Good Samaritan (in Luke 10:25-37) in which a man who was ethnically and culturally considered an “enemy” of the Jews chose to show radical, generous, brotherly love to a beaten and needy stranger.
These teachings challenge us with convicting questions:
Who is my neighbor? Who is it that I am to love as a brother or sister?
Who ought I to treat as if they were Christ himself?
Which “strangers” in my life may God be calling me to love much, much more deeply? What practical means do I have at my disposal in order to demonstrate that love?
In our anonymous culture, most of the people we see each day are strangers to us. Strangers can be frightening, dangerous, scary!
Does hospitality demand that we cast aside wisdom when it comes to our own (or our family’s safety)? Probably, most of the time, I’d say it does not. Yet it does challenge us to move far out of our comfort zones.
Though a fun dinner at home with friends can be hospitable, if we limit our understanding of hospitality to a Martha-Stewart-esque dinner party, we’re missing the point entirely.
“[O]ffering hospitality is a moral imperative,” writes Ana Maria Pineda. “This expectation is not based on any special immunity to the dangers unknown people might represent — far from it. Rather, it emerges from knowing the hospitality God has shown us.”
What do you think? What makes biblical hospitality scary to you?