Several years ago Marj and I visited Historic Williamsburg, VA through the generosity of our son’s ‘Time Share’. From photos taken on the trip, I painted three buildings in Watercolor. I chose this one for our week’s theme—Hospitality. On our trip to Mackinaw, MI in September, we were able to host Marj’s sisters and gave this original Watercolor to the youngest, who has also visited Williamsburg. It reminds me of a time in the history of Williamsburg, and this nation, when hospitality was a valued cultural familiarity.
Before you read further, take 30 seconds to…stop…close your eyes…and answer this question: What person comes to mind when you think, ‘hospitality’? Now close your eyes….
… O.K, 30 seconds is up! Of names that entered your mind, which one came to the top? I suspect you had to invest a few seconds thinking about the question itself. Exactly what is ‘hospitality’? Let’s take a look.
‘Hospitality’ derives from the Latin hospes, meaning “host”, “guest”, or “stranger”. Hospes is formed from hostis, which means “stranger” or “enemy” (the latter being where terms like “hostile” derive). The Latin word ‘Hospital’ means a guest-chamber, guest’s lodging, an inn. Hospes/hostis is the root for the English words host, hospitality, hospice, hostel and hotel.
In Ancient Greece, hospitality was a right, with the host being expected to make sure the needs of his guests were met. The ancient Greek term xenia, or theoxenia, when a god was involved, expressed this ritualized guest-friendship relation. In Greek society a person’s ability to abide by the laws of hospitality determined nobility and social standing. The Stoics regarded hospitality as a duty inspired by Zeus himself.
In Judaism hospitality to strangers and guests is based largely on the examples of Abraham and Lot in the book of Genesis 18:1-8 & 19:1-8. In Hebrew, the practice is called hachnasat orchim, or “welcoming guests”. Besides other expectations, hosts are expected to provide nourishment, comfort, and entertainment for their guests, and at the end of the visit, hosts customarily escort their guests out of their home, wishing them a safe journey.
In Christianity hospitality for followers of Jesus is specified.
Leaders: Instructions for leaders, in the local assembly of Jesus followers, included hospitality as a required credential: “Rather he [the overseer] must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. Titus 1:8 Also see: 1 Timothy 3:2
Widows (women): “…and [she] is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.” 1 Tim 5:10
Believers: “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” 1 Pet 4:9 “We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth.” 3 John 1:8 “Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings.” Rom 16:23
Needy: “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Rom 12:13
Strangers: “Do not forget to entertain [show hospitality to] strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” Heb. 13:2 “There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publis, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and for three days entertained us hospitably.” Act 28:7
I began our ‘Thought’ today with a question. You came up with a person (possibly more than one) who, in your experience, models ‘hospitality’.
Here’s a second question: How about you and me? Have we mostly accepted ‘hospitality’ rather than offered it? Actually, I believe you may have demonstrated ‘hospitality’ more often than you realize. How did you spend Thanksgiving? When did you last treat someone at your favorite coffee shop? When did you see someone in need and meet that need the best you could?
I suspect ‘hospitality’ is first an attitude of the heart. It’s one of the ways love manifests through our lives. I see it in Galatians 5:22, 23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Hospitality may include offering a place for someone to stay, a meal or invitation to a great dinner and entertainment with others, but I think it can be something else, too. What do you think? How about the next 364 days till Thanksgiving 2020?