Biblical Hospitality...No Bula.I

Where does hospitality end? Patty dove into God's word to answer the question - where does hospitality end? Thanks Patty! Enjoy her post. 

The day I came back from my mission trip to Fiji, my parents and I stopped by a cafe on the way home. In Fiji, they will greet every passer by with at least a "Bula!" [hello/good], or, in some cases, a "Bula Bula Bula!!!" [HELLO! HOW ARE YOU! I HOPE YOU'RE GOOD!] It is customary to invite passersby into your house for breakfast, and rude not to do so. So  when I'm done reading the menu at this Australian cafe and I say an enthusiastic hello to the woman, even though I'm exhausted [still in missionary mode], and she replies "hi, what do you want" in a monotone, I almost burst into tears. And I realise just how much I miss Fijian hospitality. 


Minister Jim talked recently about hospitality and he says, after tracking it to its French and Latin root words, it is basically summed up as "love for strangers". However, he presented a challenge: the Bible commands it and yet surely it can't be offered to everyone all the time? Does God's hospitality end? Should ours?

So I've been doing what bored uni students do best, and mulling over it. Here are some stories from my travels, and some thoughts my brain has borne.


First and foremost, I think we really are called to offer hospitality to everyone.

We serve a God that doesn't suggest hospitality but commands it, to your friends [1 John 4:7], enemies [Matthew 5:44], neighbours [Mark 12:31], foreigners [Deuteronomy 10:19], children [Mark 9:36-37] and the people that take you to court or slap you or take from you or force you to walk further than you wanted [Matthew 5:39-42].

One really clear image of this for me is also from Fiji. We were walking through these slums built by some Hindu Indian Fijians. These people didn't know our faces, didn't agree with our religion and didn't understand our language, and yet within a minute everyone was invited into a house. Our lecturers told us to drink and whatever we were given, and it broke my heart to see people searching empty cupboards to provide for unexpected guests. We met one man who just wanted to welcome us and give us a cold drink, and begged us to wait for his son because he couldn't speak English but his son was a taxi driver and could. I can't express the hospitality.

I therefore believe that nothing excludes someone from being worthy of our love. 

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34-35.


This leads us back to our initial question though. If we offer hospitality to everyone, why doesn't everyone have hospitality? I think the limit of hospitality is when it is rejected. 

When I was in year 11, I went with my history class and some art enthusiasts on a tour of Germany and Italy. We ended up in this tiny little Italian restaurant, with a cobblestone pavement outside and only one long table for us all to sit at. They brought out home made entrees and then pasta for everyone and it was so kind- we could have been just any other tour group, or rabble of teenagers, but they truly treated us as guests. As we all tucked in, this one girl in the group was a vegan, and she tried to communicate to the chef [who had come out at news of someone unhappy] that she was a vegan ["veh-gahn" is as close as we got] [they really don't have vegans in Italy]. He wondered if she was allergic but no, she just was refusing to eat what was in front of her. I've thought about this moment many times since then- at other restaurants, they had something specially prepared for her, and I suppose she was thinking it was his responsibility to take it back, throw it out and make something without eggs. However, in the end she dismissively grumbled that she would just finish the entrees, and he was left hurt and holding a fresh plate of pasta. You can't force hospitality on someone. It's like leaving too much food for fish- it will just float there until it rots and you have to clean it out. When Jesus sends out his twelve disciples, he says "if anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet... I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves."[Matthew 10:14 & 16]

Jim directed me to 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 as a possible loophole – where hospitality is commanded NOT to be given - but I think this feeds back into it- verse 11 says they are claiming to be brothers and sisters but are still doing what they want. God can offer all the hospitality He wants and keep asking those people back but if they are not changing, they are effectively rejecting that grace [1 John 2:3-6]. After all, Paul starts the verse by saying he's not saying to shy away from all the people of this world who are immoral, or we'd have to leave the world [v10]- I think he's saying keep showing hospitality to strangers, but once you really know a person, and they are part of your community, you need to recognise their rejection of your hospitality and God's. Someone once told me God wouldn't be very loving if he put people in heaven who had spent their whole lives telling him they didn't want to be there. 

Therefore, I maintain you can't stop being hospitable. When it is rejected, just try again, or try someone else. With our kids, we will always have the urge to protect them from the world and sometimes that's clever- if you're a parent or carer, it's your job. But you need to recognise where you are drawing these lines and these barriers to your hospitality. I grew up in a household where we had crazy Asian sailors come to our house through our church, and where my mum sends us to random locations like shopping centres in the middle of the city to buy home-made food off struggling Indonesian uni students. We live in the housing commission and are surrounded by some shady characters, but whoever they are, my Dad says hello and so now they say hello to me too. Admittedly I have been hurt before when my hospitality has been rejected but ultimately, people I knew really well have hurt me too- you can't exclude strangers on the basis of being people you don't know. A stranger may truly be a friend you haven't met yet. 

In conclusion, the people at that cafe I went to after Fiji are still scary- I've been back once in the past two years, only recently, and it wasn't a great experience. But I still smile at the person behind the till at cafes, and try to offer hospitality, and more often than not, I get a surprised smile back.   

You are, really.

You are, really.