We associate hospitality with opening one’s home to others, being a thoughtful and generous host or hostess, a welcoming personality that puts people immediately at ease and makes them feel comfortable. And hospitality is all of that, of course, and more.
What I find fascinating is that there are exactly four references to the word we translate as “hospitality” in the Bible, although similar ideas and concepts are implied in many other places. Two of the four direct references are included in St. Paul’s list of qualifications for elder (1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:8). A third reference is found in his letter to the Romans (12:13), where he gives a rather direct command: “Practice hospitality.” The fourth reference is St. Peter’s words (1 Peter 4:9), where he says to “offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
The literal translation of the Greek word used in these references is “love of strangers.” We are to be hospitable to each other, but we are also to “love strangers.” And because Paul knew the failings of the ordinary human, he made it a command: practice hospitality. What he’s saying here is that it doesn’t come naturally: we have to practice hospitality, and keep at it.
Some people are naturals at this. Some aren’t. I’m not. My worst nightmare is to throw me into a cocktail reception where I don’t know the first soul in the room. I’m always in awe of people who seem naturally able to work a room, talking with total strangers, and making people feel at ease.
What I’ve found, however, is that the internet can level the playing field.
Perhaps it’s because it’s not an official or physical “face-to-face” meeting, or possibly the “risks” are reduced, or you can always x-out and sign off. I don’t know the exact reason, but I’ve seen this on others as well. I’ve also seen the extremes; some people will and do say anything online, things they wouldn’t dream of saying in a face-to-face conversation.
I see hospitality practiced all the time on line.
Charity Singleton, for example. She blogs at Wide Open Spaces, and once a week she visits someone else’s blog and writes about on her blog.
Louise Gallagher, who blogs at Recover Your Joy, is another “practitioner” of hospitality. She will go out online, get inspired and write a blog post about what she’s found.
Jason Bourne blogs at Jason’s Spinal Bifida Journey, and I don’t think I’ve met anyone as enthusiastic about people and life as Jason.
Chris Goforth sends a good morning tweet on Twitter every morning. He blogs at Goforth’s Journal.
Friendliness, enthusiasm and encouragement ooze from Megan Willome. She blogs at Sabbath Says.
J of India blogs at Neither Use Nor Ornament. He lived most of his childhood and working live in England, and then retired to India, where he takes wonderful photos and posts them on his blog. We’ve had a few email conversations, and all I can say is, someone who places a quote by G.K. Chesterton at the top of his blog is OK by me.
There are many more people I could cite. But the six listed here practice hospitality every day. They make strangers to their blogs feel welcome. They leave encouraging comments. My life is richer because of them.
Over at Faith Barista, Bonnie Gray is hosting a weekly blog carnival. This week, the topic is “the gift of hospitality.” To see more posts on the topic, please visit Faith Barista. Bonnie’s an experienced practitioner of hospitality herself.
Illustration: Christ in the Breadline (1950) by Fritz Eichenberg.