The Hospitality of God and our Hospitality

First, what even is hospitality? What does it mean? It means “love for the stranger” or “to befriend a stranger.”[1] One definition says hospitality is having “regard for one who comes from outside one’s group.” That is exactly what God has done for us. God is perfectly holy and exalted and yet He has regard for us. 

The Lord God has regarded us—loved us—even welcomed us into the Triune fellowship (see e.g. Jn. 20:17), we who were sinners and strangers. And He did so with great cost to Himself.[2] And we see from the Gospels that Jesus was a friend (philos) of those we would expect to remain strangers and outsiders, people like tax collectors and other sinners (see Matt. 11:19), sinners like you and me.[3] And so Paul says, “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Rom. 15:7).

When we understand the amazing hospitality of God we will find it easier to love and welcome people in. Understanding the hospitality of God is essential as we think about the hospitality that we are called to practice. Because, in one sense, hospitality is supernatural. It is certainly not natural to us. We need to meditate on the hospitality of God if we hope to be hospitable as we are called to. 

It is true, however, that even “secular people” who don’t know God’s love show surprising generous hospitality (cf. Acts 28:2,7[4]). So, how much more should Christians, who have been welcomed in by God with great expense, welcome in and love others?

The LORD has shown undeserved love to us in Christ may we show love to others (Ex. 23:9; Lev. 19:18, 34; Deut. 10:17-20).

__________

[1] The word “hospitality” comes from the Greek word philoxenia (φιλοξενία). Essentially, philos = “friend” [from philein “to love”] and xenos = “stranger.” 

[2] “Christ’s supper is a banquet for sinners… God Himself prepares the table for His guests and anoints their heads [Ps. 23]. Jesus now fulfills this as the humble Host who not only entertains His guests lavishly (Mk. 6:1 ff.; 86 ff.) but who Himself serves them at the table even though they are His servants (Lk. 12:37; 22:27), who with His own hands washes their feet (Jn. 13:1 ff.), and who finally… crowns His service with by redeeming His guests with His own life (Mk. 10:45), giving Himself to His guests as an offering in a way which surpasses all human comprehension (Mk. 14:22 ff. and par.)” (Theological Dictionary of The New Testament, 24).

[3] “God’s guest list includes a disconcerting number of poor and broken people, those who appear to bring little to any gathering except their need” (Christine D. Pohl, Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition, 16).

[4] φιλοφρόνως was used for a host who was generously hospitable.

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About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 9 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)

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