Hospitality as a Spiritual Discipline

I confess, I am not nearly as hospitable as God would have me.

One of my small groups is studying the stories in Genesis. We’re looking at the life of Abraham.

This story compares and contrasts (bless my old political science professor whose every exam began “compare and contrast”) three different stories of hospitality. Actually, many people either misread or misremember the third of these–but we’ll get there in a minute.

The story begins with Abraham resting under some oak trees by his tent. Three men appear walking down the road. Abraham immediately gets up and greets the men. He implores them to sit and rest and partake of his hospitality. They agree.

Abraham rushes into the tent and tells his wife to make some bread. He selects a choice calf and instructs the servant to butcher and roast it. He gathers some milk and cheese. And thus he prepares a magnificent feast for the travelers.

Now, it turns out that two of the men are actually God’s messengers on an errand to eradicate a couple of cities who were the “sin cities” of the day. The third one is The Lord himself in the guise of a man. (strange story, eh?) It so happens that Lot, Abraham’s nephew, lives in one of those cities.

So, the second story is when the two messengers appear at the gates of Sodom. Lot “just happens” to be sitting by the gates and sees them. He, just like uncle Abe, recognizes them and offers hospitality of his house. They want to stay in the town square, but Lot knows what kind of place he chose to live in. He knows that the only safety they’ll find is under his roof.

The third story is actually the utter lack of hospitality of the men who populate the city. We don’t know what all manner of sins they did, but we know that they let their passions rule their hearts and they did many sins. In fact, they did not offer hospitality to the strangers but instead wanted to unleash their passions on these new people. Lot, because he offered hospitality, offered his virgin (but engaged) daughters to the crowd. Now that’s morality for you!

Some people read that third story as simply an anti-homosexuality morality story. But it is much, much deeper than that.

There is a man who is trying to live righteously (although who slips at times) and offers supreme hospitality. He lives and prospers–Abraham.

There is a man who knows the Lord and mostly tries to live righteously, but also who has chosen to live in a city full of passion and sin–think of it, can you imagine offering your daughters as sex toys for a crowd of probably drunken men?–and therefore is conflicted. In the end, he offers hospitality and lives, but not to a good end–Lot.

Then there are the men of a city who are slaves to every passion. They not only do not offer hospitality, they do the opposite. They are all killed.–The people of Sodom.

I think I can take a hint. God favors those who are hospitable. Maybe I need to clean up my act there. How about you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: