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“What is there more kindly than the feeling between host and guest?” (Aeschylus).
HOSPITALITY MEANS WE WELCOME GUESTS WITH WARMTH AND GENEROSITY, AND BEING HOSPITABLE MEANS WE MAKE A HABIT OF SHOWING HOSPITALITY. Both “hospitality” and “hospitable” come from the Latin word for “host.” When a host receives a guest with friendliness, something special happens. There is nothing “more kindly than the feeling between host and guest.”
It is possible, of course, to be hospitable anywhere at any time (perhaps buying someone’s meal in a restaurant), but when we welcome guests into our own homes we engage in a very special act. An even higher form of hospitality is when we welcome into our homes strangers who are in need. Indeed, the ancient Greek word for hospitality was philoxenia, which meant “love of strangers.” Almost anyone can be hospitable to friends, but it takes more character to show the same welcome and kindness to those who aren’t well known to us.
But hospitality, whether at home or elsewhere and whether toward friends or strangers, is always an outgrowth of “benevolence,” which means “good will.” It is an outward practice, certainly, but it begins on the inside, with a heart inclined to show kindness. “Where there is room in the heart there is room in the house” (Danish proverb).
Few things are more discouraging than to be “welcomed” into a home when the host’s heart is closed to us. So we need to guard against that inconsistency and receive our guests with genuine hospitality. “It is nothing won to admit men with an open door, and to receive them with a shut and reserved countenance” (Francis Bacon).
Real, down-home hospitality does have a way of being inconvenient. It’s no surprise that those who love their lifestyles more than they love their neighbors find it bothersome to share their homes. But for those who know that it’s “more blessed to give than to receive,” hospitality is well worth the sacrifice that it usually requires.
“Hospitality is a test for godliness because those who are selfish do not like strangers (especially needy ones) to intrude upon their private lives. They prefer their own friends who share their lifestyle. Only the humble have the necessary resources to give of themselves to those who could never give of themselves in return” (Erwin W. Lutzer).