Hospitality and Being a Good Theologian


I am in the middle of reading a chapter on the centrality of hospitality for the life of a theologian. The author, Max L. Stackhouse, begins by noting that Gregory of Nazianzus offers a list of questions would-be theologians should ask themselves, which follows:

Do we commend hospitality? Do we admire brotherly love, wifely affection, virginity, feeding the poor, singing psalms, nightlong vigils, penitence? Do we mortify the body with fasting? Do we through prayer take up our abode with God? Do we subordinate the inferior element in us to the better…? Do we make life a meditation of death? Do we establish our mastery over our passions…?

This list is great for a number of reasons. One is that piety is central to doing theology. Next, Gregory’s definition of piety is very different from what is commonly in my mind. The issue that the author I am reading picks up on, is hospitality topping the list. Here are Stackhouse’s comments on the relation of hospitality and mission:

As St. Gregory of Nyssa has taught us, God is hospitable. God’s own trinitarian life is not self-enclosed but oen to the other, “making room” for others’ ecistence and dlieght in realtionship with God. it is as God’s guests grounded in the Fathers’ deep generosity, identified as brothers and sisters of the meal-sharing Son, and renewed by the fellowship-creating Spirit, that we may dare to be hospitable, to one another and also and especially to those who are very different from ourselves.

Just so, we will find ourselves involved in mission. Christian hospitality calls us out of our tight circles and familiar cares and directs us outwards – to open up space and to offer a familial welcome to strangers. This missions is grounded in the hospitality of God at the creation … Its hope is the consummation of all of God’s activity of sending and gathering, that feast to which many will come “from east and west, from north and south” (Luke 13:29). And in between, God sends would-be guests to search for hospitality among human beings: “He came to what was his own, and his won people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who blieved in his name, he gave powert to be come children of God” (John 1:11-12; cf. Matthew 10:11-14). Where those gusts do receive hospitality, blessings are exchanged; the rols of host and guest quickly blur (Luke 24:29-31).

(Max L. Stackhouse, Commending Hospitality and “Polishing the Theologian in Us”in News of Boundless Riches: Interrogaiting, Comparing and Reconstructing Mission in a Global Era Vol. 2, Eds. Lalsangikima Pachuau and Max L Stackhouse, (Dehli: Indian Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge 2007), 236 and 248.)

There are two implications that I think of right away. 1) To do missions is to practice hospitality in the name of your home church with those among whom you live. (Missions takes place by fellowship and takes place in order to increase fellowship). 2) Mothers and homemakers are ministering in one of the most essential ways possible. We often miss the centrality of hospitality because all the buzzwords of individualism (career, success, your path, your direction) cloud us. Welcoming into the home is a picture of welcoming home the prodigal son. What more significance could we want for a ministry?


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