Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Hospitality...

I have always struggled with defining hospitality. Sharing a meal with someone is typically the only thing that would come to my mind. Duane Elmer in his book Cross-Cultural Servanthood provides a definition of hospitality that greatly helped me. I hope it helps you as well. He says,

"In North America, hospitality conjures images of inviting someone, usually friends, neighbors or relatives, into the home for a meal, perhaps overnight. Showing hospitality and providing a meal seem synonymous, especially toward friends or relatives. Yet the Scripture expands the idea considerably.
Hospitality refers to an attitude that prevails in a person's lifestyle, an attitude of extending grace to people, including the stranger, the person who is different. It certainly includes inviting people to your home, but if that is the extent of it, we have missed the core meaning.

Hospitality is extending love to those we don't know and who may be of a different ethnic or cultural history. It is the idea of being gracious to all people, welcoming them into your presence and making them feel valued. A true servant is characterized by hospitality - one who welcomes and embraces those who are unlike us - just as Jesus embraced us across our radical differences.

Hospitality is rooted in the word hospital, which comes from two Greek words meaning "loving the stranger." It evolved to mean "house for strangers" and later came to be known as a place of healing. Eventually, hospitality meant connecting with strangers in such a way that healing took place. Therefore, when we show openness toward people who are different from us, welcome them into our presence and make them feel safe, the relationship becomes a place of healing. As we welcome people just as they are and invite them to join us just as we are, it becomes a sacred event reflecting what Jesus did for us - providing us with a healing relationship."

5 comments:

Alan Knox said...

Theron,

Thank you for giving me something to think about. I also usually think of offering hospitality to those I "like" or who are "like me". Perhaps my definition needs to change in view of this quote.

- Alan

Alan Knox said...

Theron,

I thought of one more thing... as is mentioned in the quote, "hospitality" originally meant "showing love to the stranger". Could it be that our "evangelism" is less effective because of the way we practice "hospitality"?

- Alan

Dave Black said...

Nice to see you back, Theron. You were missed!

Theron said...

It's good to be back.

Alan,

I would agree. I tend to think of showing hospitality towards those that I already know and even those who are most like me. Would you say it is sometimes more difficult to show hospitality to those that we don't know?

Theron

Alan Knox said...

Theron,
Yes, it is certainly more difficult to show hospitality toward those we don't know or we don't like or who are not like us. But, since Jesus says that real love is love that is demonstrated toward those who are not "loveable", could it be that real hospitality is hospitality demonstrated toward those we really don't want to show hospitality to. If this is the case, and I'm beginning to think that it is, then I am not an hospitable person.

- Alan