Juan Castillo

The word hospitality comes from the Latin “hospes” that can mean an enemy, a stranger or a guest. These three kinds of people need a different welcoming, don’t you think so? How would you welcome an enemy? Perhaps with hostility. The word “hostility” also comes from “hospes” and that is because there is no way to know who is knocking at the door. All these three different meanings of the word “hospes” give meaning to the way we encounter other people.

When we are faced with a stranger, someone we don’t know, we are faced with an opportunity to react. Our brains work very fast to identify who the stranger is. Prejudice, in this sense, is a useful tool to identify if a stranger is safe or not. If someone approaches you with a knife in the middle of the street, your brain tells you that this stranger is not friendly. You can run away or you can defend yourself, either way, your response to this stranger is not going to be friendly. And that is good because we are responsibille for our own safety. On the other hand, prejudice can also give us false information about a stranger.

Imagine you encounter someone new in church. Perhaps this person is not dressed in the best way or there’s a strange smell around this stranger. Your brain may tell you to go somewhere else but there is a greater call when encountering people that are different. That is call is hospitality. Jesus told a story about a Jewish man that was robbed and injured on the way to Jerusalem. This stranger was a victim of an act of violence.

As he was laying on the ground, perhaps bleeding, a priest passed by. The priest did not stop to help. Then a Pharisee passed by and he did not stop to help either. Finally, a Samaritan passed by. The Samaritan stopped, bandaged some wounds, took the Jewish man to an inn and payed for all the care that would be needed until the stranger would recover.

Hospitality is an action of welcoming a stranger even if our prejudices tell us not to do so. Jesus speaks about strangers. He commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. But Jesus did not end there. In fact, Jesus thought that it was too easy to love those who love us back. No, the Kingdom of God belongs to those who take one step further. Jesus went so far as to say that we should love our enemies. This is an act of radical hospitality. The Samaritan did not have any duty over the Jewish wounded man. In fact, he was expected to hate this man because that is how Jewish and Samarians related to each other. They hated each other. But no, this kind Samaritan went against his own prejudice and loved the wounded Jewish man to the point of taking care of all his needs.

Who are you right now? If you are the Samaritan then welcome a stranger in church next time you come to worship God. Are you a wounded person that needs hospitality? I hope you will find in our church a loving community that is ready to welcome you and take care of you. That is what Jesus called us to do.

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