philoxenos – love towards strangers
As I mentioned last week, God has been teaching me about the principle of hospitality.
Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9
Practiquen la hospitalidad entre ustedes sin quejarse. 1 Pedro 4:9
I prefer the Spanish translation that begins with “practice.” The principles God gives as instructions in the Word are things we need to practice. To work at. To grow in.
What does Peter mean when he say “hospitality”?
This philoxenos – love towards strangers – is an act of profound love that creates an intimate connection between people.
Hospitality is an act that loves people as if they were already family.
True hospitality has the power to transform strangers into family.
What was hospitality like in that culture?
In those times, hospitality was not an unheard of practice. It was a fundamental principle in that culture.
Many people would be consider strangers for various reasons. They were widows, orphans, poor, or for other reasons without the protection of their families.
The custom was to offer hospitality to those who needed protection. Hospitality was more than simply a meal. Often times, it was the provision of a room to stay for a few nights or the provision of basic necessities. To share this kind of hospitality with someone created an intimate relationship between people.
So, if hospitality was so fundamental to how they functioned in that culture, what kind of hospitality is being encouraged when Peter writes: Practice hospitality to one another without grumbling?
Peter was speaking to the motivations of their hospitality.
For the Greeks, hospitality was rooted in a self-serving motivation: I scratch your back, you scratch mine. If I serve you now, I will come and collect from you.
For the Jews, hospitality was rooted in a self-righteous motivation: We will serve others, but only if the “others” are Jewish.
How does Jesus model hospitality?
To understand Peter’s encouragement to practice hospitality, we can look to Peter’s best friend, Jesus. As someone who walked very closely with Jesus, Peter understood how Jesus’s model of hospitality is rooted in completely different motivations.
Jesus’s model of hospitality is two-fold: 1. Jesus as the invited and 2. Jesus as the host
Jesus’s ministry took him to different cities and towns. Jesus had no home of his own, but instead sought out invitations from others. He humbled himself to receive love from strangers.
In one instance, he’s ministering in a town and sees a tax collector watching him from in a tree. This man, Zacchaeus, was not only someone who was a stranger, but also he was someone who the rest of society viewed as strange. Tax collectors were the worst of the worst in that culture. They were viewed as people who take and steal from others. And yet, Jesus tells him, I’m coming to your house. Jesus receives love from a stranger. He receives hospitality. Someone who everyone in the society hated has now become family to Jesus.
Jesus also humbled himself to give love to strangers. He did this when he feeds 5000 strangers with the bread and fish. He did this when he serves the disciples bread and wine at the Last Supper – people who knew him and didn’t fully know him yet. He did this for us when he served his body for us on the cross when we were strangers to him.
Jesus models hospitality through his humility to receive as the invited and to give as the host.
How do we practice hospitality in our times?
Practicing Jesus’s model of hospitality – loving strangers as family with humility to receive and to give can revolutionize our relationships with one another.
Instead of arguing with those who are strangers to us, with those who are strange to us, and with those who are not yet family, let’s love others with a love that transforms strangers into family.
Look at others as though they are family in Christ already.
Receive from others with humility.
Give to others with humility.
In the tension together,
Questions to ponder:
- Who can you show hospitality to before the end of the year? How?