My night had been plunged into darkness so I pulled the blankets way up over my head, curled myself up in bed and shook with fear. My mum had tucked me in, said goodnight and turned out the light. I was nine years old and we had just watched the movie “The body snatchers” on TV. I was waiting for those awful aliens from outer space to come and snatch me next. My fear was very real. In the movie, the aliens were beings that deserved to be destroyed not understood. It is not an uncommon response from us towards people who come from a world that is vastly different from our own. We avoid, we shun, we treat with suspicion.
The ancient Greeks had two views of those we call strangers. The first is the one that is depicted above. The second was that a stranger was someone who could enter your ranks and bring new knowledge and capacities that would enrich your community. The stranger was a friend whom you were just getting to know. They needed to be blessed not treated with suspicion because they would turn out to be a blessing to you.
The writers of the New Testament utilised a common Greek word to describe this behaviour – philozenos – derived from philo meaning ‘the love of a friend’ and zenos meaning ‘the stranger’. The word literally means ‘love the stranger as you would a friend’. The apostle Paul encouraged members of the church in Rome to ‘pursue philozenos’ (Romans 12:13). We translate this as ‘practice hospitality’ (NIV). I prefer the strength of the literal translation though it is more costly.
What about you?
Click the link below to listen to Frank Eames’ message on Practising Hospitality…