Philoxenia

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“Hospitality” If you were living in the Apostle Paul’s day you would have expressed the concept with the word “philoxenia” (e.g., Heb 13:2). This Greek word is derived from two other words: philos (love) and xenos (stranger or alien). It is a fascinating combination when you think about it—love for a stranger. Why would we love something that is strange? All the things I love are eminently familiar to me: my family, my church, my pillow. Conversely, things that are strange rarely come to my mind, much less receive my affection. Nevertheless, Scripture tells us that we are to love strangers; we are to extend hospitality.

Perhaps the reason why the Church is called to be hospitable is because it is so out of step with this world. I remember when I once visited a church I was greeted by a couple in the pew who invited me out to lunch. We had a terrific time. They loved me even though I was a stranger. Their hospitality bore eloquent testimony to the love of Christ.

As I pray for the Church these days, I am increasingly aware of the opportunity we have to express Christ’s love. How do our neighbors and friends, among whom we live each day, find our hospitality? When visitors join us for worship on Sunday how are they treated? When they sit down next to us in the pew are they greeted with a smile? If guests were interviewed afterward, how would they rate us in the areas of warmth and hospitality?

My hope and prayer is that more than warmth, we who comprise the Church would convey the intensity of Christ’s love which has been poured out into our hearts and that this hospitality would overflow toward our others. They will know we are Christians by our love, especially when they are strangers.

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