What is Biblical Hospitality?
July 3, 2014 by Tim Madding
As Irvin entered the front door of the church building, apprehension filled his heart as he wondered how the people would greet him. Was he dressed OK? Would he fit in? Would he understand what was happening? After ten years away from God, God was calling him back. He knew that being part of a church was how he would reconnect with God, but he feared how the church would treat him.
This fear is normal and occurs in most guests that visit the church. The church can help ease this tension and thus assist the guest in connecting with God by practicing Biblical hospitality.
Biblical hospitality comes from the Greek word, philoxenos, which is actually a combination of two words: philo, meaning love and xenos, guest or stranger. Hospitality is defined simply as the “love of strangers.”
There is a reason that many church members feel apprehensive toward a guest visiting their church and a reason that the guest feels an anxiety about visiting a new place. There is a natural tension between the two sides when a stranger arrives in a new environment. The linguistic evidence implies an expected conflict that occurs with the xenos and within those the stranger is near. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Friedrich, 1967) expands this:
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 a mutual fear, especially of the magical powers of what is foreign. (vol. 5, p. 2-3)
On the other hand, xenos is a friend or guest who is associated with the other in the context of hospitality. “This overcomes the distance of strangeness and the tension of being a foreigner” (Friedrich, 1967, p. 5).
Therefore biblical hospitality is showing love toward a stranger as a guest or as friend. Christian hospitality, as given to us in the Bible, is a sacred process of 'receiving' outsiders and changing them from strangers to guests.” For a church or believer to practice biblical hospitality, love must be shown to a stranger, someone they might naturally feel a distance or apprehension toward and creating a guest or friendship. Thus xenos means ‘guest-friend.’
Right now God is drawing someone in your community back to Him and will bring that person to the church. Will your church love him?
The church loved Irvin that day. After a couple weeks of experiencing the church’s hospitality, he turned in a connection card and Irvin began Bible studies. He was later baptized and expressed how the church’s hospitality drew him closer to God.
I believe that the local church is God's primary tool for preparing as many people as possible for the second coming of Jesus.