Living Life as a Host
At New Hope South Bay, we use the term “host” to describe those who regularly participate in our faith community. I am hopeful that this term will give us a healthy posture towards our approach to life and ministry.
A host is an individual who exists to serve, provide, and protect those who come into their environment as guests. During my studies of the ancient biblical world, I came to learn that hosting was a cherished skill and art form. It was a way of life passed on from generation to generation. Hosting was not taught in a class. Rather, it was modeled and “caught” by those observing. It was not an institutionalized practice. It was an organic way of life.
Hosting was a necessity in the ancient world because of the lack of housing that existed for those who traveled (like the hotels/motels of today). In addition, most travelers faced the dangers imposed by thieves and robbers.
Individuals had to share living space in their travels to foreign lands, even with people they did not know. Hosting became the most practical and important form of foreign diplomacy for a local village/town.
The following are some truths about ancient hosting that I believe we can learn from and implement into our own life interactions (whether in the church or outside) with those who are “foreigners” to our context:
1. The host provided “space” for the guest to keep his/her anonymity while they spent time in their home. It was never the right of the host to forcibly probe into the personally matters of the guest (e.g., reason for journey, plans for journey, etc.). In most cases, the guest did eventually provide information about their journey, but never was this interaction to be forced by the host.
2. The host was expected to provide the essential needs of the guest (e.g., drink, food, shelter, protection from enemies, etc.). The host understood that these actions would develop the friendship and possible future alliance of the two communities involved. In addition, for the Jewish context, the host understood that Yahweh (their host) had abundantly provided the resources they needed to live their own lives in the land. In other words, they were guests themselves in Yahweh’s land.
3. The host would send their guests away with a blessing by introducing them to the rest of the community (i.e., village/town). In most friendly encounters, the guest would leave a living gift (e.g., plant, animal) for the host as a token of appreciation, blessing, and friendship. In these cases, alliances were formed for even future generations.
In light of these truths (although more could have been written), the following may be some practical means of implementation as we seek to live as hosts:
1. Let’s continue to give space to the guests we encounter in life. Allow them to be as open or closed as they want to be. Our paths of conversation should free form itself without our need to direct a talk towards God. Keep in mind that when two souls authentically commune with one another, “God-talk” usually and naturally comes to the surface if indeed it is the passion of anyone involved. Allow our interactions with others to be natural. May we never be manipulative or coercive.
2. A good host focuses on the essential needs of the guest. Our reason for such selfless and loving action is rooted in our understanding that God has modeled hosting in our life. Our behavior towards our guests should be reflective of the God we follow.
3. We are called to develop friendships and form divine networks with others. When in doubt, be generous and bless. Whenever friendships are forming, introduce your guests to the rest of the community. Allow the rest of us to join you in your development of friendship when possible. There is something about a loving and dynamic community that can nurture our personal relationships with each other.
I hope this little blog will encourage you to live life as a host.
Who will you host today?