Let me be honest. For a significant part of my Christian journey, I believed that the essence of hospitality was crafting an enchanting ambiance with delicacies on charcuterie boards and extravagant meals that adorned tables set for cherished friends and family. Here’s what I’ve come to see: the pages of Scripture declare a deeper, richer understanding of hospitality.
“Hospitality,” as used in Scripture, originates from a compound of “love” and “stranger.” Hospitality literally means love for outsiders or strangers. Biblical hospitality includes opening our homes, but even more importantly, our hearts and our lives to strangers and sojourners. This type of hospitality is found in both Old and New Testaments (Leviticus 19:33–34, Luke 14:12–14, and Hebrews 13:2).
Biblical hospitality is an invitation to embrace the stranger, the outsider, and the foreigner.
In her book, The Gospel Comes with a Housekey, Rosaria Butterfield writes, “Radically biblical hospitality, those who live it see strangers as neighbors and neighbors as family of God.” Biblical hospitality is an invitation to embrace the stranger, the outsider, and the foreigner––just as God has so graciously welcomed us.
Pathway to the Nations
Now more than ever, you and I have an extraordinary opportunity in our own cities to reach the nations without traveling overseas. Men and women from all over the world have made their homes among us. But how can we prayerfully and effectively engage with the nations residing in our cities? We embrace and demonstrate biblical hospitality as our pathway to reaching the nations.
The impact of globalization in America has brought hundreds of nations right to our doorstep. Jeff Anthony, an Area Leader at International Students, Inc., recently shared that,
Over one million students from more than two hundred thirty-five countries worldwide have chosen to pursue college and university education in the United States. Sixty-five of these countries fall within the 10-40 window, representing countries that are the least evangelized and are currently closed to missionaries. Many of these closed countries are sending their top one percent to study in the United States.
We should rejoice at the opportunity to reach students who come to the United States desiring to learn the language, embrace the culture, and build meaningful connections with Americans.
When I was on staff at a church in Dallas, Texas, we had the privilege of partnering with nationwide organizations like International Students Inc., which freely trains individuals, small groups, and churches, then establishes connections with international students. Our church members had the opportunity to extend hospitality through shared meals, airport pickups, engaging in one-on-one Bible studies, facilitating English conversations, hosting welcome parties, helping move furniture, and addressing other practical needs.
Year after year, through the simple yet profound impact of biblical hospitality, countless international students discover faith and hope in Jesus Christ and carry their newfound beliefs back to their homelands––becoming powerful representatives of Christ’s love and redemptive work.
Supporting for Eternity
Every temporal act of biblical hospitality points to the present and eternal hospitality of God, our Father.
Supporting local international restaurants and businesses provides a unique opportunity to extend biblical hospitality, foster relationships, and make a positive impact on the well-being of our cities with the message of the gospel (Jeremiah 29:7). The key lies in assessing our current schedules and rhythms. Here are some questions to consider as we evaluate our routines:
- Do you already prepare or attend ongoing dinners with your friends or small group?
- Does your church or community group order meals monthly?
- Are there household items that you buy regularly that can be purchased at an international store?
We can visit international restaurants and local markets as an intentional way to prayerfully engage, learn new cultures, and build relationships that provide continuous opportunities to show and share the love of Christ.
As we pursue reaching the nations within our city, let us remember that we, too, are sojourners (Philippians 3:20). Every temporal act of biblical hospitality points to the present and eternal hospitality of God, our Father, who graciously welcomes us in Christ again and again.