Romans 12:9-139 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; [j]give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the [k]saints, [l]practicing hospitality. (NASB)
What does hospitality look like? I thought I knew that until I was sent to Albania and Kosova in 1999 as a cadet (seminary student) in The Salvation Army. It was during the Balkan War when the Serbs attempted to cleanse Kosova of all Albanians by either killing them or driving them out.
During that time it was my honor to serve the Albanians as they tried to survive the horrors of that war. One of the things I enjoyed the most was visiting Albanians either in their home or, in the case of the refugees, in their tents.
When the Kosovars returned to their homeland, they often invited us into their homes and prepared meals for us without hesitation. I was an honored guest. They sat and talked with us for hours about our family. They cooked fresh byrek (a filo dough pastry stuffed with ground beef or feta cheese) and roasted lamb. Lamb tasted the best when roasted over an open spit!
I realized that I knew nothing about hospitality. I tend to be introverted and opening myself up to others, especially, my home, tends to be difficult for me. However, one main lesson I do learn from this is that I need to put others first in my life. I need to put my selfish desires down and give to those in need. Hospitality means putting others first.
One common misconception in the Bible is that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of homosexuality. This misconception often occurs because of a simple lack of knowledge of the culture of that era. Indeed, our term for "sodomy" refers to same-sex acts. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because they thought of themselves first and not others. Ezekiel makes this point very plain:
Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. -- Ezekiel 16:49 (NASB)
In this instance "sodomy" would actually be the state of being inhospitable and refusing to help the poor and needy. Lot and his wife knew this. They showed hospitality to the 2 angels and (perhaps in part because of this) they were saved from destruction. (The aftermath of what happened to Lot and his family is tragic, but for another blog.)
Hospitality is so important because it shows one of the central tenets of our faith: to love your neighbor as yourself.
(This picture shows Arab hospitality: offering a cup of coffee.)