Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Plea for Hospitality + A New Study Bible

Welcoming Strangers in Our Midst

“The foreigner [or stranger, Hebrew ger] residing among you must be treated as your native–born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”
—Lev. 19:34

In the ancient world, hospitality was a high moral ideal, a kind of “law of the desert.” All nomads or seminomadic people needed hospitality from time to time. Welcoming a foreigner/stranger into your own tent ensured the same treatment when the tables were turned. Expectations developed in the ancient world that hosts would provide food, shelter and protection for the foreigner. This is well attested to in extra–Biblical sources as well as in the Bible itself (see Dt 16:13–15;Jdg 19). Abraham and Lot were seen as righteous, in part because they extended hospitality to travelers. Their behavior toward strangers is juxtaposed against the lack of hospitality shown to the same men by the people of Sodom.

The Bible has its own internal commentary on Sodom and Gomorrah:
  • “This was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy" (Eze 16:49).
  • “Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah!…Stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow” (Isa 1:10, 16–17).
  • Jesus said that on the day of judgment, it will be worse for cities that refused hospitality to his disciples than for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (see Mt 10:1–15).
  • Jesus said that on the day of judgment, when the Son of Man separates the sheep from goats, it will be a person's treatment of the less fortunate – the stranger, the sick, those in prison, those who needed food, water and clothing—that will be taken into account (see Mt 25:31–46).
The Bible seems to expect all people to treat the stranger and the vulnerable members of society with respect. Apparently, God does not tolerate abuse of people by even those outside the covenant and the law. The Bible reveals a moral map that needs no list of commandments. To state this universal law in poetic terms: “Do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Mt 7:12). Who then are the most vulnerable members of our society? Who are the strangers? How should they be treated?

** Excerpted from an Article in the NIV First–Century Study Bible.

Place the Scriptures into the context of it's original authorships and recipients is vital to understanding the text. There's a new resource available to you to do just that and we highly recommend checking out the NIV First-Centuray Study Bible. Experience the Bible through Eastern eyes by exploring the cultural, religious, and historical background of the Bible. This hardcover study Bible allows you to understand God’s Word in its original cultural context, bringing Scripture to life by providing fresh understanding to familiar passages, beloved stories and all the Scripture in between.

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