Many Christians have grown up with a very limited concept of “missions” and “missionaries.” In this view a missionary is a person who goes and preaches to lots of people, often in primitive lands, and explains the theology of the gospel. The natives are convinced and become Christians. Thus the gospel commission is fulfilled. Actual missions have not been carried out in this way very much. Missionaries are generally very aware of the personal aspect of their activities, and the importance of hospitality. But western churches have become much less attuned to hospitality. The days are past when visitors could assume they’d be invited home for lunch or become personally connected to people in a church they visit. But hospitality is a key concept, and a key practice, in the Bible, both in Old and New Testament times. This involved both God’s relationship with his people, in which some “entertained angels,” in their relationships with one another, and in the way they reached the world with the good news God had given to them. Chris Freet examines the biblical idea of hospitality, the role it played in biblical times, and the example that provides for us. He concludes that the western church needs to be re-awakened to the mutual and reciprocal biblical definition of hospitality; that it must undergo some contextualization in order for the biblical role of hospitality and the “person of peace” to work in it; and (3) it must transition from short-term encounters of hospitality in the West to long-term relationships as the family of God. This is a serious theological examination, but it is also both a challenge and a practical guide to help us get started in giving hospitality the role in our churches that the biblical story envisions.
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