Sunday, July 17, 2011

Radical Hospitality: Welcoming strangers.

When is the last time you offered hospitality to a total stranger?

After reading the book, Lone Survivor, I realize we can learn a lot from middle-eastern culture. Lone Survivor is about four US Navy Seals who depart for the mountainous Afghanistan-Pakistan border for a reconnaissance mission early in July 2005. This is the story of the only survivor, Marcus Luttrell, and the extraordinary firefight that led to the largest loss of life in American Navy SEAL history. Over the next four days, terribly injured and presumed dead, Luttrell crawled for miles through the mountains and was taken in by sympathetic villagers who risked their lives to keep him safe from surrounding Taliban warriors.

These Afghan villagers tended to Luttrell’s wounds and protected him from the Taliban at great risk to their own lives. Marcus learned later that the entire village stood ready to protect him even if it meant going up against the Taliban. This is hospitality middle-eastern style, and it’s more biblical that any hospitality that we can imagine here in the U.S. For you and me, hospitality is an industry which involves hotels pampering the customer for a hefty price. That’s our idea of hospitality, a far cry from biblical hospitality.

Biblical hospitality is more akin to the radical hospitality practiced by the  Bedouin culture. The Bedouin are tribal nomads who live in Israel and along the Sinai. They live in tents and raise goats, living pretty much the same as herdsmen in the time of Abraham. A complete stranger can stay as long as 3 days without being asked of his whereabouts. He is considered and treated as a guest and enjoys the clan’s full protection. 

In Genesis, we read that Abraham was sitting in his tent door in the heat of the  day when three strangers suddenly appeared in his camp. Abraham runs to meet them. He offers these men hospitality, ordering his servant to wash the dust from their feet. Then he tells Sarah to start baking a fresh batch of bread, and then he runs to pick out a tender calf to be slaughtered and roasted for dinner.
Jesus set forth hospitality as a way of better displaying and communicating the love of God for sinners.  When we take in and help those in need, we not only imitate our God; we also advance His healing work in this world.
Jesus says in Luke 14:12-14, “When you make a dinner, don’t call your friends, or your family members, or your rich neighbors…but when you make dinner, call the poor, the lame, the crippled, the blind, and then you shall be blessed, for they cannot pay you back, and they can’t invite you to their “homes” for dinner.
I don’t know about you, but when I look at the Scriptures and consider the hospitality practiced by the Bedouins and middle-eastern people, I am ashamed. I am not hospitable. I do not welcome strangers into my home, most of the time. In my next post, I will share about our encounter with a homeless couple and their 2-day stay in our home. 
What are your thoughts on hospitality? Are you hospitable? Can I come and stay at your house? Can someone off the street come and stay at your house, no questions asked? What does Biblical hospitality look like in America in the year 2011?

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