In ancient times, hospitality toward strangers—the act of opening up your home and resources to strangers—was a vital part of culture.
Imagine living in a village thousands of years ago, and you need to travel a long distance. You don’t have cars, airplanes, or other means of convenient transportation; you are most likely going to travel on foot or maybe on an animal at best. This means your travel will be much slower than what you might expect today, and you cannot carry many things with you on this long journey.
Moreover, you’re not travelling on nice highways. You have rough terrains and dangerous roads ahead of you. Threats of bandits and wild beasts are real concerns associated with travelling, so you shouldn’t bring valuable items with you. This means when you go through villages, you are relying on the generosity and hospitality of others (strangers) to sustain you on this journey. This is why the society established expectations of hospitality. It was honourable to show hospitality to strangers and shameful to deny a stranger that showed up at your door.
The Old Testament law reflects this value. God commanded his people to “treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself” (Lev. 19:33-34), and “when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner” (Lev. 23:22).
With the current economic challenges, it may seem natural for people to retract their generosity and hunker down to care for themselves. However, we are more at risk as a community when people aren’t looking out for each other.
A radically hospitable community is a stronger community. We have a higher chance of flourishing as a city when we obey God’s command to be a hospitable community; sacrificing our own resources and opening our homes to serve one another in love. I pray our city will be a hospitable place for everyone.