LOOK HERE for recipes, quotes, music, books, environmental stewardship, faith, etc

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bombings and Hospitality

Like some of you I am sure, I was glued to radio and TV on Friday as the drama unfolded in Boston. (Part of me hates to admit that because I think the media did a lot of sloppy reporting, but the drama itself was admittedly pretty gripping.)

The timing of this entire incident in light of the debates on Capitol Hill on gun control and immigration seems the stuff of an action-packed thriller. Sadly, it's all too real.

The next day, I was doing some final reading as I get ready to wrap up this semester's APU Seminary course (being taken to get some extra grad units in case I decide to go for another degree down the road).

The class is called "People of God," and is all about Torah (first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures) and how it tells the story of the formation of the People of God, Israel. It's been amazing to realize, even though I took a similar class years ago, to learn this time much more about the emphasis throughout Torah on the stranger. Another translation of this word could be "resident alien" -- someone from a different racial, ethnic, and linguistic group often forced to emigrate to another country.

Over and over, Yhwh emphasizes how Israel is to welcome the stranger, since they were once strangers themselves, both in Egypt and in their wilderness wanderings. In fact, I'm having to do an entire paper on Deut 10:10-22, where many qualities of God are listed as reasons to worship him as the one true God. In response, Israel is only called to be like God in one way:

"You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." (vs. 19)

In one of the textbooks for class, the author concludes with an examination of Torah as it works out in the New Testament. She looked at Romans 12:13, which says, "Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers."
The Greek word for "hospitality" used here is philoxenia, which contains within it the words for "love" (philia) and "stranger" (xenos). This is the only time that Paul uses this word, and it is rare elsewhere in the New Testament. "Hospitality" is a rather pale word for what underlies the notion of a demand to provide for the outside guest, the "stranger," a demand that was both cultural and religious. 
Later, the author also references Galatians 5 and the whole notion of true freedom, letting go of religious burdens that are no longer applicable (many of which are commanded in the Torah). As you may know already, the letter to the Galatians was needed because they were falling under the influence of false teachers and thinking they needed to follow Jewish food and circumcision laws to be followers of Christ. Paul says this in response,
For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (vv 13-14)
As news and political debates continue to unfold and all the sides continue their rants, I pray we would keep God's "single commandment" in mind. As followers of Christ, we are citizens of heaven (see Philippians 3:20) -- thus we are "resident aliens" too. Despite whatever risks may be possible, I'm praying about how to keep loving my neighbor, and welcoming the stranger, since I'm no different from them.