On a trip to France in 2010, we’d scheduled an evening to visit a dear friend’s home and have dinner with her large family: parents, brothers, sisters, their spouses, and the most adorable nephew. Among the list of planned stops along the way were places like the Louvre, Van Gogh’s asylum, a ghost town that had been destroyed by the nazis in WW2, a medieval castle, Versailles and its magnificent gardens, lavender fields, and sunflower fields, and a host of other unforgettable must-see’s when taking such a trip. The evening dinner in a friend’s home hardly seemed like it would be the highlight of the trip and more like a nice stop along the way. Fourteen years later, if you were to ask me my favorite part of that epic vacation, I would say without hesitation that the hours around a table, well into the night, eating together with new friends, struggling to communicate (we only spoke English, they only spoke French) and laughing till it hurt, those hours are at the top of my list. I remember what it felt like to be welcomed in with literal open arms, giant and genuine smiles, kisses on each cheek, the smell of food that no doubt took days and hours of preparation to welcome us in, a long, beautifully set table in the back yard among the most lovely trees and setting sun, the best cup of coffee in memory and a feeling that we were more like family than strangers. 

It’s difficult to describe what it does to my heart when I’ve been gifted the feeling of belonging and being unconditionally loved while being so fully aware that I am the stranger in the room. Maybe you’ve experienced this gift as well. It reminds me of how our most hospitable God has welcomed us, strangers and foreigners, Gentiles, into His family through His perfect son Jesus.

In Leviticus 19:33-34 God commands His people,

“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

God’s chosen people were called to be hospitable people, ready to welcome in and serve and protect any stranger in their midst. In Genesis 18, we see this hospitality on display in Abraham when he welcomes three strangers into his home, feeds them their best food (Sarah makes an extravagant amount of bread for these men, going above and beyond what was needed), and offers them safety on their journey.

Hebrews 13:2 reminds us of this encounter when the writer says,

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

The Greek word for “hospitality” is philoxenia. It combines the words philos, meaning “friend,” and xenon, meaning “foreigner.” God does not want us to fear those who are different than us or strangers to us, instead He wants us to love them, to welcome them as our own the way He has welcomed us.

Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2:11-12,

“Remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’…were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.”

We are the outcasts who He welcomed to His table in God’s story of redemption. Because of this, God calls us to show hospitality to the “outsiders” in our own lives, and to show them the love we have been shown.

God’s word continually highlights the way that relationships and sharing a table together go hand in hand. And this is put on ultimate display in how Jesus chose to carry out His ministry. Time and time again, He connected with people- strangers, sinners, outcasts, those who were generally unwelcome in society- around a table and/or a meal. If you take the time to read through the book of Luke, it is hard to miss the theme of Jesus eating meals with all sorts of people. He was criticized for this radical hospitality, for making friends out of sinners and outcasts.

On the door of a favorite little restaurant of mine, there is a quote from Cesar Chavez that says,

“If you really want to make a friend, go into someone’s kitchen and eat with them…the people who give you their food give you their heart.”

In this table ministry of Jesus our Messiah, we see the very heart of God lived out in the flesh. He is a God of inclusivity whose loving hand is extended to those in need of belonging and those who have lost their way and need the hope that Jesus offers. 

I love what author Jon Tyson says:

“Jesus was able to model what our culture is craving- spaces of welcome where strangers, enemies, outsiders, and others can become our friends. Jesus created pockets of love in a culture of fear that formed a new kind of community in the world, something he called ‘the Church.’ The Church was to exist not as a haven from the world but as a place of hope for the world.”

Hospitality takes practice and intentionality. When we discuss the importance of any spiritual discipline, it’s important to remember why we practice them in the first place. As disciples and followers of our Rabbi Jesus, we should desire to be more like Him in every way. That is the goal of any spiritual discipline: to become formed into His image with the help of His Spirit. 

There is a temptation for us as His followers to remain planted in our church communities’ safety and pursue comfort over hospitality. Spending time with people we know and who we like and understand is comfortable. Being hospitable requires us to step out of our comfort zones and trust the example that Christ has laid before us. Disciplining ourselves to continually welcome others (who might even make us feel uncomfortable) requires sacrifice, time that most of us don’t have, effort, and unconditional love. But it is the example of Jesus, and when we share our time and tables the way He did, I believe we grow closer to the heart of God. And in our hospitality, we share the hope of Jesus with the world. God has called us, His church, to practice radical hospitality. Just as He welcomed us in as foreigners, let us be people who extend welcome and belonging to the lost and hurting, and in doing so, be a place of hope for the world. Who will you invite to share a meal and a conversation with you this week?


Work Cited

Tyson, Jon. “Jon Tyson: Loving the Stranger Is the Heart of the Gospel.” RELEVANT, 20 Feb. 2023, relevantmagazine.com/faith/growth/jon-tyson-loving-the-stranger-is-the-heart-of-the-gospel/.

Amanda Scott
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Amanda is the art-loving, coffee-drinking, garden-planting, travel-enthusiast wife to her best friend, a guy named Boo Scott, and mom to 3 quirky kids who she adores, Evie, Ever and Forest. She loves living in Hot Springs, Arkansas, where her husband preaches for the National Park church and their family enjoys exploring, hiking, mountain biking and serving the church and community. She has loved being a photographer for 16 years since graduating from Freed-Hardeman University, but her true passion is for the ministry opportunities she has with her husband, especially getting to listen to and offer support to younger ladies and sharing with them the incredible love and peace of Jesus.