Philoxenos is a Greek word that combines two words together Philios, which is ‘to love;’ and Xenos, which is ‘the stranger.’ Philoxenos, then, means to have love for the stranger, or the outsider.
In 1 Peter 4:9, we are told, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” As a Christian reading this passage, it becomes easy to read this verse as telling me to be hospitable to my follow believers, but the word translated as hospitable here is Philoxenos. This use of hospitality also shows up in the qualities of an overseer in the church in 1 Timothy 3:2.
As a Christian, we are comfortable with the idea of loving the Lord, and with the idea of loving our neighbor as ourselves. But I feel we often, like the expert in the law in Luke chapter 10, always want to ask the question: Who is my neighbor? It just makes rational sense to us that there has to be an outer boundary to whom God has called us to love.
Of course, Jesus responds with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The Parable of the Good Samaritan is Philoxenos in action the love and concern we show for the one who is not known to us.
We used to be better at Philoxenos. I bet many of you can remember stories told by parents or grandparents of times when strangers would pull up to the farm and ask if they could sleep in the barn, or perhaps a tramp would show up and need a bite of food.
Families might fight over who got to have a visiting missionary or pastor stay at their home.
Even in my life, I remember when people going to our conference annual meetings would be put up in people’s homes, rather than going to hotels. Or, when we went to youth retreats, the local church would find beds for us in people’s homes.
I guess the world is a scarier place today. What our parents and grandparents did seems to no longer make sense in the dangerous world we perceive ourselves as living in. But even back then, it was dangerous to welcome a stranger.
So, why did they do it? Primarily, they did it because it was their Christian duty. They would say to themselves, “What kind of Christian am I if I turn this hungry, cold, threadbare person away?” And they knew the answer.
Perhaps they thought of the words of Hebrews 13:2, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”
Or, of the words of Christ in the parable of the sheep and the goats, “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”
I hear Christians today constantly say that they should not be conformed to the world. Usually, this means they are anxious to avoid the evil the world promotes.
But perhaps, to be different from the world also means that we should not let the world dissuade us from the Philoxenos God calls us to show.