Strange Love # 2

The word translated hospitality in the Bible is a word very familiar to the first century context (read Strange Love # 1). It is also a word with vibrant meaning as it is the combination of two words which literally mean “friendly love (philo) for strangers (nexia).” Hospitality is strange love.

Nothing feels stranger than being a stranger. Strangers might feel strange and people might feel strange about strangers. When things are so strange it makes hospitality a challenge. I like what the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says about this tension in hospitality:

“Between the stranger and those around him there is reciprocal tension. He is a man from without, strange, hard to fathom, surprising, unsettling, sinister. But to the stranger his odd and different environment is also disturbing and threatening. There thus arises mutual fear, especially of the magical powers of what is foreign.”[1]

We all tend to congregate around the familiar. As a result we have forgotten what it is like to be strange. Many people in church have been a part of the same congregation and the same class within that congregation for decades. Nothing is strange to them, except strangers. While they may view themselves as being friendly to strangers the true question is are they hospitable? There is a difference in being friendly and being hospitable. Being friendly to a stranger may include a handshake, a friendly nod, a smile, a bulletin, and an invitation to attend a class. While this is good, it is not hospitable. Hospitality picks up at the end of friendly. Hospitality seeks to remove everything strange about the new relationship in. Friendliness says, “We want more people in our class, Mr. Stranger, I hope you come.” Hospitality says, “I want you to meet my friends and family, welcome to our lives.”

WARNING: If you use those exact words people may think you are a Disney tour guide, so I would not suggest doing so, but I share those words only to illustrate the point. There is a difference in being friendly and being hospitable. Friendly people smile at strangers. Hospitable people, out of love, turn strangers (nexia) into friends (philo) (hospitality - philonexia).

[1]Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964-c1976. Vols. 5-9 edited by Gerhard Friedrich. Vol. 10 compiled by Ronald Pitkin. (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (5:2). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.


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