By NEMS Daily Journal
The societal shift from front porches and front sidewalks to back-yard decks and patios is an excellent metaphor of the growing tendency for American homes to be designed more for individualism and isolation than for hospitality.
Not that we’re against seclusion, in moderation. But for Christians and the followers of many other faiths, hospitality and community are expressions of faith as surely as is worship.
Even if we embrace the concept of hospitality, however, it’s easy to misapply it. We live in “The Hospitality State” here, but it is easy to think of hospitality primarily in terms either of tourism or of entertaining our families, our friends and those in our social circles.
Biblical examples of hospitality and community include frequent fellowship with like-minded people – a chance for Christians to open their homes to one another.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Heb. 10:24-25)
Hospitality and community, though, go beyond comfortable fellowship or entertaining those who can boost our careers or cultivating the “right” social contacts.
They’re also about meeting the emotional and physical needs of those who may not be our peers.
Biblical examples of hospitality often involve the landless, the lame, the immigrant and the traveler, who by definition were those with little in the way of people, place or resources on which to depend. These were people forced, in the words of Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” to depend “on the kindness of strangers.”
Ancient Israel was commanded to care for strangers in their midst.
“The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you,” asserts the Book of Leviticus. “You shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”
The writer of Hebrews urged his readers to be generous even with people unknown to them: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2)
While travelers typically opt for a hotel rather than knocking on doors of residences these days, many an opportunity for true hospitality still exists.
A new employee might welcome being asked to lunch by a coworker or two, and a family new to town might enjoy being included in a neighborhood cookout. A college student far from home for the first time might very well be comforted to be included in a family meal.
More sacrificial inclusion may be in order, too. That spare bedroom might be perfect for a missionary on furlough, a teenager needing stability that his family can’t provide or a woman needing distance from her abusive husband.
Jesus gave perhaps the clearest example of biblical hospital in Matthew 25, when he commanded giving food to the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and the prisoner.
“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)