The Spirituality of Hospitality: A Tangible Kingdom


In a number of ancient civilizations, hospitality was viewed as a pillar on which all morality rested; it encompassed “the good.”  For the people of ancient Israel, understanding themselves as strangers and sojourners, with responsibility to care for vulnerable strangers in their midst, was part of what it meant to be a people of God.  Jesus, who was dependant on the hospitality of others during much of his earthly sojourn, also served as the gracious host in his words and in his actions.  Those who turned to him found welcome and rest and the promise of reception into the Kingdom.  Jesus urged his human hosts to open their banquets and dinner tables to more than family and friends who could return the favour, to give generous welcome to the poor and sick who had little to offer in return.  Jesus promised that welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry person, and visiting the sick were acts of personal kindness to the Son of man himself.

Christine Pohl, “Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition” page 5.

The earthly ministry of Jesus was dependant upon hospitality.

Our entitlement culture facilitated by North American consumerism makes it difficult to both offer and accept hospitality.  We are seemingly en-cultured to earn and if we are given what we do not earn there is an awkwardness that sits pointed and quiet like a white elephant in the room.

“I did not earn this, I do not deserve this.”

Or maybe…

“They did not earn this, they do not deserve this.”

In this context true hospitality is counter cultural and a foundational spiritual practice.

We are called to be hospitable to others as Jesus was first hospitable to us.  We didn’t earn the hospitality of Jesus, it is given as a gift through grace.  Yet if we accept this hospitality of Jesus, we are obligated to extend hospitality to others, as it has been extended to us.

Hospitality in this way will bring the gospel to life in your particular time and place.

A tangible Kingdom.

How can you be hospitable to the presence of God in your life?  How can you be hospitable to the presence of others in your life?

One comment

  1. Jordan · October 6, 2012

    In ‘The Rivers North Of the Future’ by Ivan Illich and David Cayley, Illich speaks about how we as descendants of the Western Christian Roman Empire, have been part of a long tradition that has fundamentally twisted Grace, which can only be experienced as a free gift given from one soul to another, and created charity, which only requires that a need be filled. He talks about how this change has affected the way we view ourselves and the way we view others, and I think it’s at the heart of what you’re getting at here…. we’re not hospitable because we don’t believe we need to be, that all we need is charity, that the important part is that the need is filled, not the exchange that happens during the filling of said need.

    Powerful stuff, and worth thinking about.

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