How to Treat Strangers as Friends

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Last week our family attended the Tulsa Workshop in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  During our time there I went to a couple of classes taught by Richard Beck who teaches at Abilene Christian University and blogs at Experimental Theology

Beck taught some classes on radical hospitality.

Today I wanted to share the biggest thing I took away from the class.  Are you ready for this??

We tend to treat friends as friends and strangers as strangers.

Wow, isn’t that the most insightful thing you’ve heard all day?

Ok.  Give me a minute to explain how that extends to Christian hospitality.  

We all have insiders and outsiders.  There are some who are known and those who are anonymous to us.  We unintentionally categorize people as friends or strangers.  Beck calls refers to this as the Moral Circle.  

Do you treat those who are anonymous to you the same or differently as those who are friends?  How does your conduct fit with the call to be like Christ?

Here’s the example Beck uses:

Let’s say a friend is a waiter or waitress at a restaurant and you visit one night.  You can tell that your friend has a lot of customers and is feeling really stressed out by the whole experience.  They are slow to get you your drinks and your food.  How do you act towards that friend?  What do you say?  What’s your attitude like?

Now, let’s imagine that you’ve never met the waiter or waitress before and because the person is so busy you get less than outstanding service.  How do you act towards the stranger?  What do you say?  What’s your attitude like?

What I learned about myself is that I treat the stranger much differently then I treat a friend.  I give myself permission to give less love to those outside my moral circle.

This is an especially tragic realization in light of Hebrews 13:2, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

Here I am thinking, “Hey God, if you had told me that stranger was an angel I would have acted a lot differently”.

That’s the point.  That’s the call.  That’s the challenge.  To treat strangers just as if they were an angel.  To treat strangers with the same level of effort, respect, helpfulness, love, and support as you would a best friend.  Or, treat them better, treat them as if they were an angel sent from God.

Ignorantly I’ve neglected, ignored, and chastised the stranger.  

My resolution is to do to others what I’d do to a close friend.  I think I’ll be a better person for it.  Best, of all, I think that better reflects the life of Christ as compared to the life I’m currently living.

How can you show radical hospitality to strangers?


  1. David says

    How far is too far? Does radical hospitality mean that I must always pick up hitchhikers? Does radical hospitality mean that I invite every homeless person I meet back to my house? And when will they leave? At what point is my safety a competing good to the good of hospitality? I’d certainly treat friends to my car and house, but then I trust them.

    • says

      I couldn’t even begin to answer that question. Biblically and historically people took HUGE risks for hospitality. God will need to guide each of us as we determine when it is his will to respond. Ultimately, I think most of us risk not going far enough instead of going too far.

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