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Hospitality is a concept taught in the Bible, reflecting the divine nature and guiding principles for human conduct. From Old Testament narratives to the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament, the Bible consistently underscores the significance of hospitality as a virtue that transcends cultural and societal boundaries.
Old Testament Foundations of Hospitality
Hospitality finds its roots in the Old Testament, where the life of Abraham serves as a paradigmatic example. In Genesis 18, we witness Abraham extending warm hospitality to three strangers who turn out to be divine messengers. This act of generosity and kindness not only reveals Abraham’s character but also highlights the divine rewards bestowed upon those who practice hospitality without reservation.
Genesis 18:1-5 (NKJV): “Then the Lord appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day. So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground, and said, ‘My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant.'”
Throughout the Old Testament, the theme of welcoming strangers emerges as a recurring motif. The Israelites are repeatedly reminded to show hospitality to foreigners, reflecting God’s heart for the marginalized and displaced.
Leviticus 19:33-34 (NKJV): “And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
The Teachings of Jesus
In the New Testament, Jesus not only reaffirms the importance of hospitality but also embodies it in his interactions with various individuals. His parables, such as the Good Samaritan, emphasize the radical nature of hospitality that goes beyond cultural and societal norms.
Matthew 25:35-36 (NKJV): “for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”
Jesus frequently uses banquet imagery to convey the kingdom of God. The idea of a lavish feast symbolizes God’s invitation to all people, irrespective of their backgrounds, to partake in the divine fellowship.
Luke 14:12-14 (NKJV): “Then He also said to him who invited Him, ‘When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.'”
A Christian Virtue
The early Christian communities, influenced by the teachings of Jesus, embraced hospitality as a core aspect of their communal life. The book of Acts provides glimpses of this communal hospitality, where believers shared their resources and homes with one another.
Acts 2:44-46 (NKJV): “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.”
The apostolic letters, written to guide and instruct the early Christian communities, contain explicit exhortations regarding hospitality. The believers are encouraged to practice hospitality without grumbling, recognizing it as a means of ministering to others and even unknowingly entertaining angels.
Hebrews 13:2 (NKJV): “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.”
The Bible teaches hospitality that extends from the tent of Abraham to the teachings of Jesus and the early Christian communities. It is a virtue of the Christian faith, calling believers to extend love, generosity, and kindness to all, especially to those in need. As contemporary followers of Christ, the biblical teachings on hospitality challenge us to examine our hearts, cultivate a spirit of openness, and actively seek opportunities to embody the divine principle of welcoming the stranger. May the words of the Apostle Peter resonate in our hearts as we navigate the complexities of the modern world: “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9 (NKJV).
In His service,