Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenant of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:12-13
As Thanksgiving approaches, I find myself struggling to get into the holiday spirit. Perhaps it has something to do with the eighty-degree weather we are experiencing in Texas, but I suspect it has more to do with the current state of our nation. It is difficult to feel festive when our world seems so volatile. However, as I have begun to prepare my home to host family and friends over the holiday season, God has been faithful to restore my joy by revealing his true heart for hospitality.
Throughout the Gospels, we see how much of Christ’s ministry centered around food and fellowship. He was the host, and he was a guest. He ate on beaches, beside wells, in wealthy homes, and on breezy hillsides. The Old Testament prophets tell us he is preparing a feast for us with good food and great wine. A clear lover of parties, Christ’s time on earth could be summed up in two words: divine hospitality.
At the heart of divine hospitality is a desire for redemption and reconciliation. As Americans, we have come to define hospitality as hosting our friends and family at a beautifully set table. But God’s definition of hospitality is seen in the Greek word used in the New Testament: “philoxenia,” literally meaning “the love of strangers” (Rom 12:13, Heb 13:2). God’s plan for hospitality has always been about welcoming the stranger and making him a part of his family.
Paul describes this vision in perfect poetry when he tells us in Ephesians 2:12-13:
Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenant of the promise, having no hope and without God in the word. But now in Christ Jesus, you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ Jesus. (NIV, emphasis mine)
We, who were far off, have been brought near. We, who were excluded, have been included. We, who were strangers, are now called sons and daughters. This is the very heart of God and the mission of Christ.
The Holy Trinity experiences perfect fellowship and love within themselves, and yet, God welcomes us, children of wrath- the worst possible house guests- into his perfect love. He washes our feet, places the family ring on our finger, and gives us a seat at his table.
As I reflect on this love, his beauty overwhelms me. With a heart of thanksgiving, my only response to this dark and broken world is to do as my Father has done and say, “This love is meant to be shared.” My understanding of divine hospitality has altered how I respond to the division so evident in our country. It has set me into motion, moving directly towards those I do not understand, towards those who oppose me.
We believe we have been called to love our neighbor. But we feel stuck, unsure of what this love actually looks like. I believe it looks like hospitality. It looks like breaking bread with the marginalized and the excluded. It’s sharing a meal and a conversation with those who are nothing like you in the hopes that you can offer them your friendship, and ultimately, the love of God.
As we gather around our tables this Thanksgiving, I pray we consider this new vision for hospitality and refresh the hope we have in Christ. May we enter this holiday season with an open heart to host those we do not know or understand. For this is the gospel and a true act of love.