The Irony of Hospitality

We need to love one another in the body of Christ through words such as, “Don’t be a stranger."

God says hospitality can and should be shown to Christians we already know and love. If you are practicing this currently without grumbling, you should be encouraged to know that God is pleased with your hospitable heart and practice.

 

In recent years, I’ve heard several well-meaning Christian leaders assert that there is a sharp difference between fellowship and hospitality. They say that a person is not practicing biblical hospitality if he only has friends present to receive his expressions of welcome and love. The basis of the claim is the etymology of the Greek word for “hospitality,” which is, “love of strangers.”[1] Where this assertion has been made, I’ve also seen faces fall. Faces of men and women who have self-sacrificially opened their homes and their lives to serve, but are now discouraged and perhaps feel guilty that their efforts do not qualify as hospitality much of the time.

But there is a difference between the etymological definition of a word and the biblical meaning of a word or concept. Context matters more than mere etymology. For instance, Peter writes to the saints dispersed abroad in 1 Peter 4 urging them to love and serve one another in a variety of ways. He reminds them in verse 9, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” These believers were to practice what is etymologically “love of strangers” towards those they already knew and loved. Why? Perhaps it is because, even within the church, it is so easy for people to drift to the margins and feel like strangers.

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