26 February – 4 March 2017.
In Middle Eastern culture, both in the Bible days and today, the social laws of hospitality are incredibly important. Guests and strangers must be welcomed, cared for, and honoured. It doesn’t matter if that’s a friend visiting from next door, or a complete stranger coming from a foreign country – others must be welcomed, fed, and even offered a place to stay. To do any less was absolutely shameful. And apart from being the right thing to do – and one of God’s commandments – it also meant that when we find ourselves as strangers in a strange land we could also depend on others to welcome us too.
In Genesis 18, Abraham shows us how to offer hospitality properly. Abraham notices 3 strangers on the road and even though he doesn’t know them he runs to them and greets them. He welcomes them to stay with him, he gives them water to wash, and he and Sarah prepare a large feast for them. We watch the way Abraham welcomes strangers, and immediately we know that he really is a righteous man.
But not everyone in this story behaves as they should. In the next chapter, these men visit Lot in the city of Sodom. While Lot also offers them hospitality, the other men of the town act in a terribly shameful way. Instead of welcoming the strangers, they gang up to attack and rape them. This must not be the first time the people have acted this way, after all 18:20 tells us that complaints against Sodom have even reached God’s ears – and he is not impressed.
Lack of hospitality for strangers and foreigners is a sin that really angers God. That’s why in Matthew 10:14–15, Jesus also specifically stresses that cities that don’t offer hospitality to his disciples will face a punishment even worse than Sodom’s!
But sadly, as we look around our world today we see that in too many countries strangers and foreigners are not treated well or even welcomed at all. That’s not the righteous behaviour that God expects.
But is there anything we can do to make things better? The best thing is to start practicing hospitality ourselves, welcoming the strangers and foreigners around us instead of hating, ignoring, or taking advantage of them. If we loved foreigners just like we love ourselves, imagine how proud God would be of us for that!
Pastor Stephen Lakkis