A Study of Hospitality to Strangers

As soon as I am up to 70% of my fundraising, I will be working as a minister to international students at Boston University.  This is a study that I did of the Biblical support for hospitality to internationals.

 

Holladay defines the Hebrew word ger as “A man who, either alone or with his family, leaves his village & tribe, because of war, famine, pestilence, blood guilt, &c. & seeks shelter & sojourn elsewhere, where his right to own land, to marry, & to participate in the administration of justice, in the cult, & in war is curtailed.”  The NIV translates ger as “alien” or sometimes “stranger,” and the word is most often associated with God’s chosen people.

 

            In Genesis 15:13 God prepares Abraham for this reality: “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own…”  A few chapters later, in Gen. 23:4 Abraham tells the Hittites, “I am an alien and a stranger among you.”  The author of Hebrews also speaks of Abraham’s call: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.  By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him in the same promise.  For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”

 

            When Abraham’s descendents were slaves in Egypt, and for the forty years of wandering the desert before they entered the promised land, this became a part of their national identity.  “When they were but few in number, few indeed, and strangers in it, they wandered from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another.”  (I Chron. 16:19 (and Ps. 105:12)).  Moses, when he had fled to Midian, named his first son Gershom, which means “an alien there,” because, “I have become an alien in a foreign land”  (Ex. 2:22).  Many years later, when God exiled the Israelites for their sins, Zechariah used the familiar language to speak of it: “I scattered them among all the nations, where they were strangers.”  (Zech 7:14).

 

            David uses this language to describe the results of his devotion to God: “I am a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my own mother’s sons;” (Ps. 69:8) and, “I am a stranger on earth.” (Ps. 119:19).  He even uses it to describe his relationship to God, “For I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger, as all my fathers were.”  (Ps. 39:12).

 

Jeremiah 14:8  “O Hope of Israel, its Savior in times of distress, why are you like a stranger in the land like a traveler who stays only a night?”

 

            When God gives his law at Sinai, this engraved national identity becomes the reason to treat other aliens well.

 

            “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.”  Ex. 22:21

 

                        “When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him.  The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native born.  Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt.  I am the LORD your God.” Lev. 19:33-34.

 

            “You are to have the same law for the alien and the native born.  I am the LORD your God.”  Lev. 24:22

 

            “If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you.” Lev. 25:35.

 

            “Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge.  Remember that you were slaves in Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you from there.” Deut. 24:17.

 

            See also Psalm. 146:9, Jer 7:6, Jer. 22:3, Ez. 22:7 & 29, Zech. 7:10, Mal. 3:5.

 

            “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field.  Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen.  Leave them for the poor and the alien.”  Lev. !9:9-10.  See also Lev. 23:22; Deut. 24:19-22.

 

            It is this last command that Boaz obeys when he watches over Ruth the Moabitess  she gleans in his field.

 

            The author of Hebrews develops this theme even more.

 

            “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.  By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him in the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” Heb. 11:8-10

 

            Jesus spoke in strong terms of showing hospitality to strangers in Matt. 25:35-44.  A similar sentiment is expressed in Hebrews 13:2, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”

 

            The same terminology that is applied to the Israelites in the Old Testament is given to the Christians in the New:

 

            “To God’s elect, strangers in the world…” I Pet. 1:1

            “Live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.” I Pet. 1:17

            “I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world…” I Pet. 2:11

 

            Hospitality is also enjoined in the  New Testament, though it seems to be directed towards other Christians:

 

            “Share with God’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.”  Ro 12:13

            “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” I Peter 4:9

            See also Acts 28:7, Ro 16:23, I Tim 3:2 &5:10, Tit 1:8, III John 1:8.

 

            In Acts 18:26 Priscilla and Aquilla show hospitality to Apollos in order to correct and complete his theological training.

 

            We need only add the Great Commission to complete the thought.  Though the Bible does not address the specific situation of Internationals from an “unreached” country visiting a “Christian” country, its theology towards both foreigners and unreached peoples is more than clear.  It is the responsibility of those called to spread the gospel of Christ to show hospitality to the aliens and strangers among us.  Not only is this clearly commanded in the Bible, it is one of the most strategic ways of fulfilling the commission to “make disciples of all ethne.”

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One comment on “A Study of Hospitality to Strangers

  1. Riley says:

    Jessica. Did you write this, compile these thoughts? They are wonderful. Thank you.

    Like

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