Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Last week in Crossroads we talked about our relationships with strangers or people whom we don't know very well. A major part of our discussion focused on the notion of hospitality, so I wanted to clarify what exactly I meant during class.

Often in today's Church when we think of hospitality we think of people, usually women, who like and are good at hosting events, providing food for Church activities, etc. These things are part of being hospitable, but they do not exhaust all of what it means to exhibit hospitality.

Two quick things: 1) Every Christian is called to be hospitable. "Hospitality" does not appear in any of the lists of spiritual gifts (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4) and all Christians are commanded to practice hospitality (Romans 12.13). I only say this because I fear that some of us, myself included, try to get out of things by saying "I'm not gifted that way." Well, we certainly can't say that about hospitality - it is not considered a spiritual gift in the New Testament and we are all commanded to be hospitable. We are not off the hook! 2) The word for hospitality in the New Testament is philoxenia, which is a combination of of two Greek root words - philos and xenos. Philos means love (as in Philadelphia - city of brotherly love) and xenos means strangers or others (as in xenophobia - fear of others). In other words, we are to have love for others around us. Let me be clear that Scripture teaches that this does not just apply to those whom we host at our homes or at a party or for whom we provide food at Church. No, we are instructed to love others, all of them, no matter where or when. That is a challenging message if I ever heard one!

This next week we'll be talking about our relationships at work and/or school. So it is my hope that you'll spend some time thinking about how these sorts of relationships faired for you this week. Were there any tensions? Were there some opportunities in which you honored God? Please be prepared to share as you feel comfortable.

I look forward to seeing all of you Sunday morning at 9:15!


Julia said...

So not to be super OCD...
But, as I understand it, "philos" specifically means "brotherly love." And maybe it's just me, but I'm willing to do stuff for my brother that I wouldn't do, even for my best friend (right now it's letting him live with us, but if he were to ever need a kidney, I'd be up for it too).
When I look at the context of the passages we read, they were from Paul to the fellow churches- which I implied to mean that his exhortation to demonstrate brotherly love was to/towards other Christian brothers. I'm assuming that if he meant- "go love your neighborhood panhandler like your brother" he would explicitly spell it out, since panhandlers existed back then practically as numerously as they do now.
I'm just putting it out there that brotherly love is something we should all strive for (you know how weird only children are). However, giving unselfishly to our Christian brothers as if to our genetic brothers, is a distinct concept from being nice to people in general, being a doormat for nonbelievers who are drunk at Dodger games, or even letting your brother take advantage of you.

J. Matthew Barnes said...

Julia, thanks for you comment!

You are right that we talked explicitly about passage from the New Testament and Paul in particular. However, taking our cue from the ethical norm set in the OT, specifically Leviticus 19, I think it is fair to say that love should guide our actions when interacting with the "alien" in our midst, i.e., the strangers around us. However, your point is certainly true that we must first show love to one another. Jesus said in John 13 that the world will know we are his disciples if we love one another. That is certainly the place to start, but the buck shouldn't stop there.

Also, you are definitely correct that we are not called to be doormats. Loving others does not mean doing whatever they want or say they need. Love means putting their interests first and what may be in their best interest may not be what they are asking for. I like it that you are calling us to be wise in how we express our love, that is something that we all need to truly consider!