Have you ever offered hospitality to a total stranger in your home? And if you can answer ‘yes’ to that question, was that person or persons of the same ethnicity as you are? How did you entertain them? Did you serve them a meal? Did you give them a place to lodge for the night? Did you provide medical assistance? Or did you just invite them in and listened to their sorrows and needs?
Did you feel comfortable and/or safe in doing what you did because they ‘looked’ like you? Did you interview them at your front door before you invited them in? Did you have any idea you were living out the Holy Scripture written in 1 Peter 4:9
“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
The Greek word (“philoxenia”) is a compound word where we get “phileo” (defined compassionate love) and “stranger”. If you felt fear and it caused you to slam the door, then you experienced what we call “xenophobia…the fear of strangers.
God has given us a road map to overcome fear that allows us to forfeit our compassion to love our neighbor as thy self. In fact, it’s actually a two-part commandment:
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40
So, now the only question that remains is just who is my neighbor and who is worthy of my compassion and generosity? The bible says that both friends and your enemies are your neighbors. And you should help them both, but in different ways.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (your enemies). Matthew 5:43
Since everyone is part of God’s creation and we have pledged to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength we would be liars if we did not also love our neighbor (friend and foe). And, yes, even though we know that everyone will not go to heaven because of the choices they make, that does not excuse us from exercising our faith and desiring that all God’s people be apostatized to come to accept him.
As for the ‘how’ part of this formula, don’t forget you can also live out this command by going to the person’s house to commune with him. (Remember Jesus’ house visits to Zacchaeus’ house and Matthew’s house and Mary and Martha’s house? And last but not least, the Good Samaritan’s hospitable work with the wounded man on the roadside. He took the man to an Inn.)
My final scripture before I share my personal story is found In Romans 8:10, Paul says:
“Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.”
See the picture of that single mother with her two little kids? Well, that’s my story of a total stranger who, some 50 years ago, called my phone and asked, no begged, for my help. She was desperate, despondent, and in total despair. She told me that she had gotten my phone number from a newspaper’s ‘house for rent’ section. In that ad I had written I would help people find reasonable houses to rent.
Lisa (not her real name) had overstayed her temporary government housing voucher which had provided her and her two children with shelter for only three nights in a motel. She was now sitting out on the curb of that motel along with her meager belongings with no place to go and her two hungry children sobbing.
Without hesitating, I immediately jumped in my car and went to fetch her. Along the way, I was praying to God and I said, ‘Lord, I don’t have any empty houses at this time. Where can I put them? Immediately, I heard an audible voice say, “Put them in your house. You have two extra bedrooms.”
This was not only a new personal beginning with my relationship with the Lord, but a scary one at that. Here to fore, I had never allowed total strangers to stay in my home. I always had enough rental properties to place then in at drastically reduced rental rates.
As I approached the motel entrance, I saw an African lady with two tattered children. Her shoulders were drooped, her head was bowed and her eyes were swollen. She looked despicable, distraught, disillusioned and depleted. I introduced my self, loaded her belongings in my car and said, ‘get in’.
As we drove back to my house, I was completely transformed by God. Instead of asking my new ‘neighbor’ anything about her current condition in life, I said, “I’m going to let you out at my front door. Here’s my key, take your things in and up to the two bedrooms on the second floor, the one in the middle of the hall and the other one on your left. You may shower and then get something to eat out of the refrigerator. I have to go back to work and will be home around 6:00 p.m. If you steal anything while I am away, you will have to deal with the Lord. I left them on my front lawn and returned to work.
Fortunately, all went well. Lisa and her children were at the house when I returned. They had cleaned up, eaten, and were watching TV. I eventually found them a house, some used furniture and got her registered with the city’s housing department. She became a member of my church, got a job, enrolled in some courses, and is to this day my friend.
I want to leave you with a scripture I find helpful when I am confronted with decisions and opportunities to offer hospitality to someone in need, especially total strangers.
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