In my spiritual tradition, the notion of “extravagant hospitality” is often used to describe how Jesus loved those who didn’t fit into ancient society — the poor, the widowed, the childless, the tax collector, women, children, the immigrants.
Take for example one of the Biblical accounts of a story Jesus told to a lawyer to help him understand what it meant to have faith in God.
“The lawyer asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
“But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” Luke 10:29-37 (NRSV)
Through this story, we learn that it was not the Levite (an associate to the priest) nor the priest himself who helped the man who was robbed. It was the Samaritan, a foreigner from Samaria, who was not expected to stop and help a man, especially one who was not from the same ethnic background or social class.
Why does Jesus feel that this is the story to teach the lawyer about what it means to be a neighbor? This story seems to embody what it means to be a neighbor as a follower of Christ, and that is to see your neighbor as you see yourself and ultimately how we see our relationship with God.
“You shall love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
We are part of God’s world, and that means that we are neighbors. If we are truly following this “golden rule” that Jesus sets before us in scripture, then shouldn’t we be demonstrating that “extravagant hospitality” I mentioned earlier? After all, it does say in Hebrews 13:1-2:
“Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
We may never know what to expect each and every day, but we can demonstrate love and hospitality and be the best neighbor we can possibly be. This is what Jesus taught so long ago and still rings true in this moment and time in our lives.