Hebrews 13:2 “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (ESV)
I’m no angel, but I have experienced some great hospitality in the past year of living in Wessington Springs. (Yes, it’s been a year, and yes, I know I’m still a newcomer.) The word hospitality can bring various images to mind: friends over for supper; holiday gatherings; the hospitality industry of hotels, restaurants, and cruise ships; or maybe even church potlucks. These are all great, but are they biblical hospitality?
The Greek word translated as hospitality in Hebrews 13:2 and other verses is philoxenia, which is a combination of two words: love (phileo), and the word for stranger (xenos). It literally means “love of stranger.” Entertaining family and friends is one thing – a very good thing, I might add – but entertaining strangers is another. Or is it? A well-known saying is “strangers are just friends we haven’t met yet.”
The first readers of Hebrews were much more likely to experience strangers showing up at their door needing food and a place to stay than we are today. However, strangers then and today both share a lack of relationships, which is what makes them strangers. Hospitality, or “love of stranger,” means including strangers in your life.
Who are the strangers around you? They may be widows or singles or new residents who don’t have family and friends nearby, making them isolated. They may be the ones people avoid because of their attitude or behavior, making them excluded. Either way, biblical hospitality has the power to break through this isolation or exclusion and show the love of Christ to them. As Christians we are commanded to avoid neglecting this, and by using the gifts God has given us we can and should show hospitality to strangers. It’s part of the second greatest commandment, “love your neighbor as yourself.”