“Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.” Romans 12:13
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2
The phrase “hospitality to strangers” used in these two verses is one word in the original Greek of the New Testament: philoxenia (Φιλοξενία). Philoxenia comes from two root words, the noun “xenos” meaning alien, foreigner or stranger; and the verb “phileo” meaning to love, to have affection for, to delight in. The Greek language had several words for love. Most of us are familiar with “eros” which is often identified with physical or sexual love, and “agape” which is a deep caring love that seeks to provide what is in the best interest of the one loved. “Philo” love is a brotherly or familial kind of love. The early Quaker settlers in Pennsylvania established Philadelphia as the “City of Brotherly Love.”
So word philoxenia, translated as “hospitality” in Romans 12 and Hebrews 13, has the connotation of loving strangers as you would a brother or family member. And as I have stated before, to the first century Greeks and Greek-speaking Hebrews and Palestinians, the word “stranger” did not just mean someone you do not know, it meant someone from an ethnic background, race, religion or culture that was different than your own. That is why some translations use the words “alien” or “foreigner” to translate “xenos” (ξένος). And that is what makes these verses so radical. Jews in the first century considered themselves “unclean” if they were even accidentally touched by a non-Jew, a Gentile. If a Gentile came into their home, they would have to ritually clean it before they could allow any of their Jewish friends or family to enter.
As I pointed out a few weeks ago, in Matthew 25 we see Jesus praising those who welcomed strangers (aliens) and condemning for eternity those who did not. In Romans 12 we see that the Apostle Paul commands Hebrew and Gentile Christians to show brotherly love to strangers (including aliens or foreigners). And the same command is repeated by the author of Hebrews in chapter 13 of that epistle. So I remain amazed and saddened that so many of my Christian acquaintances who say they want our nation to return to Christian values, are in fact demanding our nation do just the opposite of what the Bible commands and shut our borders to refugees from war and poverty.
The Christian church grew exponentially in its first few centuries of her existence. Living out the Bible’s commands to show hospitality, the brotherly love of aliens, foreigners, or strangers, was the number one reason for that growth. If you really want a Christian revival in our land, then live like you mean it. Love the strangers, the foreigners, the refugees just as the early church did. To do otherwise mocks both the Christ and the Holy Scriptures you profess to love.