Loving the Stranger and the Familiar
“Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:1-2, click here for the complete passage). It is a popular verse, and for good reason! But I think it might actually be even more challenging than we generally think.
I don’t normally discuss Biblical Greek here, but there is a play on words that we should not miss. In the verses above, the Greek word translated “mutual love” is “philadelphia” meaning, more literally “city of brotherly love” or in this context “love of my city or community.”
The word translated “hospitality” is “philazenias” meaning, literally, “love of the other” or “love of the different.” The second half of the Greek word, “zenias” is the same root we get “zenophobia” (fear of the other) from.
Together, these words remind us that we are called to love all, both those comfortable to us, from our community, and those who are “other”, who are not a part of our perceived community. It is intentionally universal. Every human on the planet fits into one category or the other! There is no qualification that they are deserving, or pleasant, or grateful, or comfortable, or Christian, or polite, or anything else.
It’s easy to love those we find comfortable and likeable. How have you shown hospitality to the stranger, the unknown, the other?
This column appears in the September 1, 2019 edition of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the complete issue.
If you are reading this at a different time, you may click here for the current eNews.