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Embracing Hospitality as a Spiritual Practice

The practice of hospitality involves far more than tasty casseroles and readied guest rooms. In fact, the ability to live hospitably with the people around us – friends and strangers – is a result of developing a deeper sense of the meaning and practice of hospitality in our lives. 

Hospitality as a spiritual practice transcends the passage of time and culture. Abraham and Sarah unknowingly offer hospitality to Yahweh and two angels, and in turn receive a blessing. The travelers to Emmaus welcome the stranger they met on the road and have an encounter with the risen Christ.

In ancient cultures and even today’s agrarian cultures, hospitality is not a mere nicety, but a requirement for survival. According to a Jewish midrash, Sodom was destroyed not simply for inhospitality, but because it had passed an ordinance forbidding citizens from giving refuge to strangers.

Author Henri Nouwen named the transformation of hostility to hospitality as one of the three necessary movements of the spiritual life in his book, Reaching Out. He broadened the understanding of welcoming the stranger with his recognition that children, students, patients, and counselees are also guests who need to be offered space “to become sensitive and obedient to their own stories.”

In the book of Ruth, Ruth welcomes Naomi’s God, kinsfolk, and culture, and Naomi welcomes Ruth to return home with her to Judah. This mutual hospitality makes their survival possible in what was a wilderness of opportunities for women. Boaz also offers hospitality, and the once forbidden intermarriage of Ruth and Boaz gives rise to King David and ultimately, Jesus.


Our fall Hospitality as a Spiritual Practice: The Welcoming Voice of the Book of Ruth  class will introduce participants to the deep discipline of hospitality—hospitality to far more than just a visitor in our home.  The hospitality embedded in Ruth’s story encourages us to open our arms and hearts to life on life’s terms, God on God’s terms, grace beyond imagination, and the inevitable evolution of faith

For those interested in exploring the spiritual practice of hospitality, join Jim Dant and participants October 3-6 at Columbia Theological Seminary. Click here for course details and registration.