Following the famous command in Romans 12:1-2 to offer holy lives to God because of our salvation, the chapter begins a list of commands describing the way that followers of Jesus Christ are to live. Verse 13 is one of those: “Practicing hospitality.” The original Bible words give us some extra insight into the command:
First, the word “hospitality” is a compound word in Greek, “philoxenia.” “Philos” means “brotherly love” and “xenos” means “stranger” or “foreigner.” So built into the meaning of the word is a care for strangers. This word is used only twice in the New Testament, here and in Hebrews 13:2, where we are commanded to “show hospitality to strangers.”
Then it is significant that the word “practice” literally means “pursuing.” This is actually the Greek word “dioko”, which is often translated “persecute” but can also mean “run swiftly to catch.” This is a great picture: we are to RUN after, or “pursue” hospitality. It is something that we may have to exert some effort to work towards.
Evidently the first-century Christians NEEDED an admonition to practice hospitality; it wasn’t just “second nature” to everyone in that culture as we sometimes envision or they wouldn’t have needed a couple of commands not to neglect it! So maybe some of us in our culture who need to work on this area are not alone! It is the nature of many to want to be alone, to see “our home as our castle”, and a refuge away from the world. And in our “electronic age” it can be easy to bury one’s self in an assortment of media, and become disconnected from the kind of intimate personal fellowship with others that having them in your home requires.
But God tells us here that it is important that we share our lives with others. We need close fellowship with people, whether we always “feel” like it or not. And there is an influence we can have on people when we have them in our homes which may not happen any other way. It can be one of the most effective elements of good discipleship. So God doesn’t leave it to chance, or to our random feelings. He commands us here to “pursue” — “run after” — this practice of hospitality!