My husband and I went on vacation in Georgia visiting family. We stayed in five different hotels in nine days. Each hotel advertised “hot breakfast” but the offerings were all very different. Hospitality, true hospitality is often pushed aside for a cheap substitute. The cost is counted as more important than service. Hospitality often amounts to little more than feeding as many people for as little as possible. Quantity over quality seems to be the point. This is particularly true in churches and clubs where cheap coffee and bad cookies are called hospitality, where a bunch of friends exclude any new people is called fellowship time.
Scripture holds robust hospitality as the goal for all followers of God. Not a welcome based on whether you will join the church or community as a paying member. It’s not confined to people who are “like ourselves.” The hospitality Scripture speaks of is typically focused on people different from ourselves. It is very easy to offer good gifts to those we know or who are like us – it is much more difficult to offer gifts, good gifts, to those unlike us. In Genesis 18, Abram and his family were visited by three strangers in the middle of the day. Abram quickly brought them in, made them welcome and while saying he would bring a “little Smackerel of something,” prepared a feast of the finest food available.
We do this in response to what God has given us; a world of feasting. God creates overflowing life, water, food and air all in abundant and delicious quantities for life. Hebrews 13 says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Abram did not realize they were God’s messengers or perhaps God’s own self in trinity form and offered the great feast in a sign of overwhelming generosity and hospitality for unknown strangers.
Biblical hospitality looks beyond differences to see similarities—to recognize others as created in the likeness of God. If we believe that all people are brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, our hospitality should be what we would offer family and honored guests.
Radical or biblical hospitality is not cheap – it is costly. It requires followers to lay down their own desires and open the doors for others, those unlike us and with new unknown needs. There is no immediate reward for radical hospitality, there is often a cost of time and money but reward? No mention of that aspect. Instead we do it because we want to be like Jesus. We want to follow faithfully and that is not cheap.