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Hospitality to Strangers (47 of 52)
Christopher B. Harbin
Genesis 18:1-8, 16
We all have our circles of acquaintances, friends, neighbors, schoolmates, and colleagues. We travel within our circles of friendship, camaraderie, social class, and economic standing. We are most comfortable within those circles where we find a sense of belonging. Stepping beyond them makes us a bit uncomfortable, perhaps even worried or afraid.
Within our cultural and social settings, we know what to expect. We know how to organize our actions and reactions to others. We know how to interpret another's words and gestures. We can navigate body language and cultural cues rather successfully. When we step outside those known circles, life gets a bit more complicated. We feel unsure about ourselves and unsure about the people we encounter. We do not have the assurance needed for interpreting cultural cues correctly. It makes us uneasy.
Then we find the gospel calling us to reach out in love, compassion, and grace to all sorts of people who are not like us. We find that we are to treat immigrants with the same acceptance and care we would give our own children. We find commands to extend hospitality to strangers, to welcome one and all into our lives even as Christ Jesus has welcomed us. The gospel becomes a challenge. It calls for a degree of discomfort, uncertainty, and stepping into uncharted territory.
Throughout the Ancient Near East, measurements of righteousness were tied to how one treats outsiders. We see this in Job, as well as narratives from ancient Ugarit, speaking of how treating strangers reflects one's degree of righteousness. Greek myths of Zeus appearing as a stranger called those who worshipped the Greek pantheon to deal kindly with strangers. They were to offer hospitality, recognizing that Zeus might come to call, testing their hospitality. By the same token, we find Abraham being visited in Genesis 18 by strangers, immigrants travel ...
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