What Does Biblical Hospitality Mean?

By Rondell Treviño, Founder/Director, The immigration Project

In English, we typically understand hospitality as a willingness to host, feed, and entertain a guest—this is something we all do, especially with our personal friends. However, the biblical term has a much deeper meaning. The Greek term that is often translated into the English term “hospitality” is the word φιλόξενος. The word is a combination of two concepts, that break down as follows.

φιλό (pronounced Philao) is one of several words for “love” in Greek. Being a more precise language than English, classical Greek has a few different ways to express the word “love”. In this case, the word that is used means “brotherly love” or “to love like a brother”, and is how we get the name Philadelphia- the City of Brotherly Love. The word ξενος (Xenos) which makes up the second half of the word we render “hospitality” actually means “stranger” or “immigrant”, and is where we get the word xenophobia which is the fear of strangers/immigrants. In light of these two words being combined, hospitality as commonly understood, isn’t exactly the best way to express this biblical truth. Instead of simply “entertaining guests” the word means, One who loves strangers/immigrants like you would your own family member.

Today, however, Biblical hospitality is something many Christians struggle with applying to their lives because of xenophobia (fear of Immigrants)–or simply because they just don’t feel the need or have the time to actually show hospitality to Immigrants, documented and undocumented.

However, it’s a command, and any Christian who says they love Jesus, must also demonstrate this love through hospitality to Immigrants, documented and undocumented–and can do so while respecting the rule of law.

So what are some ways we can show hospitality to Immigrants today?

  1. Study scripture. God’s Word is inerrant and infallible—it alive and active, and should be our number one source to view complex issues through, including hospitality to Immigrants. Let’s start with what the Bible says about God’s love for the Immigrant.
  2. Pray. Prayer is is communing with the God who saved us by grace through faith. Taking time to pray for Immigrants—that would come to know Jesus as Savior, but also would be viewed as created in God’s Image is a great place to begin (Genesis 1:26-28; John 3:16).
  3. Volunteer at a local immigration organization. One of the best ways hospitality can be displayed is by simply searching the internet for Immigration organization near you and serve them. This will allows you to be in proximity with Immigrants.
  4. Invite an Immigrant family over for dinner. Having a meal with others is always a blessing—not just to those invited but to the person who’s home their in. I’ve had undocumented Immigrants over for dinner plenty of times and never have regretted it. If you invite an Immigrant family over, you won’t either.
  5. Remember Immigrants have a name. Immigrants are not just Immigrants, documented or undocumented, they actually have a name God has given them—from Jose Rodriguez, Jessica Martinez, to Yonathan Moya. They have a name and if God knows their name, so should we as Christians.
  6. Ride in an Uber. Every time I travel to speak, I always enjoy taking an Uber because seven times out of ten my driver is an Immigrant. The ten minute ride he or she gives me is an opportunity to demonstrate hospitality through conversation about life and Jesus.
  7. Visit a Park in an Immigrant Neighborhood. Jesus, in John chapter four, went out of His way to go through Samaria, a place Jews hated. Yet Jesus was showing His Disciples that loving their neighbor is about going out of your way to be in proximity with those who are different from you and need Jesus. When we take the time to go out of our way to visit an Immigrant neighborhood, we have the opportunity to be in proximity with them and share the Gospel.
  8. Eat at an Immigrant Restaurant. Every Christian loves to eat, and I know many love to eat Latino food. A great way to show hospitality to Immigrants is buying food from authentic Latino restaurants and meeting those dining there.
  9. Move into an Immigrant Neighborhood. Jesus moved into the world from Heaven and loved us unconditionally. As Christians, to love Immigrants, we can, if God is calling us to, move into an Immigrant neighborhood have the privilege of demonstrating hospitality to Immigrants on a daily basis. I have lived in an Immigrant neighborhood for five years now, and God has providentially opened doors to love Immigrants.
  10. Do Justice on behalf of Immigrants. Biblically, the word justice means giving someone what they are due–either punishment or protection or care. This word, in the Old Testament, is always associated with the Widow, Poor, Fatherless, Orphan, and Immigrant. We have an opportunity to do justice for Immigrants by holding people and institutions accountable for creating, implementing, and sustaining just and balanced policies that show compassion to Immigrants while respecting the rule of law. One way to do this is by calling your Representatives and encouraging them to pass legislation that both shows compassion to Immigrants while respecting the rule of law through the need for a multifaceted approach to border security. Find your representative HERE. 

As our Cities, towns, and neighborhoods continue to be filled with Immigrants, it’s important to understand what Biblical Hospitality means and how we should apply it to our lives toward these vulnerable groups who need the Gospel, both in word and deed. Let us demonstrate hospitality to Immigrants.


 

The immigration Project exists to equip the Church to embrace a biblically balanced approach to immigration that shows compassion to immigrants while respecting the rule of law.

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