What is sacred hospitality anyway?
When you hear of “hospitality,” what words come to mind? From experience, I imagine southern hospitality, which entail the dinner parties, the pretty floral arrangements, the matching plates and place mats, and the southern comfort food. Perhaps you think of the front desk of a hotel or the hospitality team at your church. Maybe you think of hospitality as “generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests,” as Merriam Webster defines it, and for you, it’s a broad, intangible umbrella of things.
However, what if there was a different, new, and exciting way of thinking of sacred hospitality, a view that comes straight from the Big Man Himself, from the heart and character of God. This blog is here to offer a new perspective on hospitality, as well as look at people and groups that have caught on to the Biblical notion of hospitality.
Hospitality is a motif that, once you start looking for it, you can find in every corner of the Bible.
However, for introduction purposes, we will start with a Deuteronomistic text, which states that “[God] defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).
This text gives us a clear lens through which the Israelites, God’s chosen people, viewed hospitality. They understood God’s command because the idea of being a foreigner was something that was real to them; they were once in the shoes of the exiled. As strangers, they had to seek refuge in places unfamiliar to them, accepting help from people who were much different from them. When they were no longer strangers, God called them to love the foreigners just as they were loved.
Another important aspect of this text is recognizing that God’s nature is hospitable, and His love is action. We are shown that God loves the foreigner. The participial phrase that follows defines what love, in this context, means: to give the foreigner food and clothing. It was through doing that God showed his love. He continually made a way for the foreigners throughout the Old Testament through tangible actions. The Israelites, then, are to love the foreigners by the definition given to them. They are to love by doing, by physically providing for the needs of the strangers, for God once physically provided for them.
Being hospitable, then, involves remembering our past, loving, and acting out of that love. How does this play out in the New Testament? Find out in Part 2!
From an open table,