Practising hospitality

Published on: 1 July 2018

I’ve been thinking about Biblical hospitality. Romans 12:13 reads “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality”. Sounds fairly straightforward, right?

But when I looked closer at the seemingly simple phrase ‘Practise hospitality’, I had to think again. The entire phrase in Greek reads philoxenian diokontes, which literally means ‘pursue the love of strangers’. The Greek word ‘hospitality’ combines two concepts. The first part (philao) is the Greek word for ‘brotherly love’. The second half (xenos) is a broad term, meaning ‘stranger, foreigner, immigrant or enemy’. Re-reading Romans 12:13, instead of simply ‘Practise hospitality’, I found an active, dynamic commandment: ‘Practise [go out of your way to] show love to strangers, immigrants, or your enemies as if they were your siblings’. The implications of this made me feel deeply uncomfortable.

The concept of hospitality was not new to New Testament Christians in Rome. It runs throughout the Bible; in Leviticus 19:33–34, God commands the Israelites, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them … Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” Israelites were expected to demonstrate hospitality because they remembered being foreigners in an oppressive system in Egypt.

This must strike a chord; who of us has never felt slightly (or even very) out of place? I clearly remember my first few months at a new sixth form. Having just moved from Central Africa, I had never been to school in England before and I found myself in a year group larger than my entire school had been. I was terrified, and it was only because of others who welcomed me into their lives that I began to feel at home. The memory of being enslaved in Egypt may not be part of our personal experience, but we all know what it is like to not fit in or to feel isolated, and therefore we have no excuse to ignore the commandment in this verse.

Exploring God’s expectations regarding hospitality has convinced me that the church needs to be at the forefront of providing for strangers, for immigrants and for all those who are vulnerable in today’s society. Jesus’ death was the ultimate act of hospitality. He welcomes us into His kingdom and promises, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2).

Local charity Hope into Action provides Christians with practical ways of mirroring Jesus. By investing in HiA, we play a part in preparing a place for tenants on earth: a physical room of their own, with the chance to be surrounded not only by professional support from HiA but also fellowship from the wider church family. My prayer is that more people will see the theology of sharing as intrinsic to their practice as Christians and that the immigrants and vulnerable here will know we are Christians by our hospitality.

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Love bade me welcome

In many, perhaps most cultures, the obligation to offer welcome and hospitality is taken very seriously.


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After 37 happy years attending the same central Norwich church, we felt it would be better, having moved out to Taverham, to find somewhere local to worship. After a couple of services at St Edmund’s we knew that this was the place we wanted to be.


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Everyone knows that lions live in wardrobes, monsters lurk down the toilet, and dragons emerge from cracks in the pavement. Whatever you do don’t step on the cracks!


Refugees welcomed with love in Lulea

During an intense period in the autumn of 2015 thousands of refugees came by train to stations in the Diocese of Lulea. Emma Berkman describes how the parishes acted immediately to make the arrival as loving as possible.


Welcoming different faiths at school

Each year Corton Church of England Primary School on the East Suffolk coast near Lowestoft holds three multi-faith days as part of their RE curriculum.


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We can all picture the scene in church: a parent struggles to pacify a crying baby while making fraught attempts to keep a toddler sitting and quietly engaged before finally the stares of other congregation members send them scuttling for the exit.


Sprowston’s vestry hour outreach

Andy Bunter unpacks how a different approach to vestry hour has opened the door to new opportunities.


A tasty welcome at Blakeney brunch

Biddy Collyer paid an early morning visit to St Nicholas Church in Blakeney to see for herself the tasty welcome that's taking the place by storm.


Places of welcome and sanctuary

Churches across the Diocese will welcome visitors to their buildings in Celebrating Open Churches that opens on Norfolk Day 27 July. It's a welcome that extends throughout the year in many and diverse ways, writes Marion Welham.


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