At our recent church Annual Ministry Meeting to engage our ministry leaders and members and renew our commitment to being an intentional disciple-making church, the importance of hospitality was raised. After all, to be intentional in reaching others with Christ surely must require hospitality both as a church and as individuals. Have we been practising hospitality as we ought to? Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
The word “hospitality” comes from the Latin “hospes” which means “host”. The Greek equivalent is the compound word made up of “phileo” (love between brothers and sisters), and “xenos” (strangers or foreigners), thus together it means “a love for strangers”. Today, the word brings to mind hotels and the tourism industry but in the early church, the concept of hospitality referred to welcoming strangers into the community. Such an attitude of openness and generosity to others was the hallmark of the early church and contributed to her rapid growth throughout the Roman world. The early Christians’ acts of hospitality went beyond just caring for strangers—they were also known for their care for the poor and marginalised in society.
Jesus’ words in the parable of the sheep and the goats were no doubt foremost in their minds. “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matt. 25:34b-36).
These days in modern Singapore, we may be wary of inviting total strangers into our homes. However, in church, all of us can play a role in welcoming newcomers and visitors; that task should not be left to the leaders or ushers. The contemporary church hungers for models of a more authentic Christian life in which glimpses of the Kingdom can be seen and the promise of the Kingdom is embodied. More than words or ideas, the world needs living pictures of what a life of hospitality could look like. A community which embodies hospitality to strangers is a sure sign of Christ’s presence with us. Let’s start today.