Unconditional Hospitality in a Bloodthirsty World

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Unconditional Hospitality in a Bloodthirsty World

So John and I finally got a chance to see Lone Survivor. Since we were probably the world’s last couple to do so, you no doubt already know how amazing it was.

Amazingly shocking. Amazingly brutal. Amazingly raw.

The word that struck me most was given just before the credits: “Pashtunwali.” Named for the Pashtun peoples, it’s basically an unwritten code of conduct or a “code of life.” One of the ten principles of Pashtunwali speaks to “Melmastia” meaning “hospitality.”

These peoples go to much greater lengths than we would typically think necessary in extending hospitality. In this culture, it involves showing profound respect to all visitors, regardless of race, religion, national affiliation, or economic status. They offer it without any hope of remuneration or favor. So deep is the Pashtun desire toward hospitality that they’ll put themselves and their families at risk — even unto death — to assure the needs of their guests.

Though the custom dates back hundreds of years, the Pashtuns were not the first to take hospitality this seriously. Israel’s father Abraham modeled it for his descendants — though he referred to it as “Hakhnasat Orchim” — considering it a legal and moral obligation. Abraham went so far as to keep all four sides of his tent open, so guests could easily enter from any direction and receive food, water, or shelter.

The story I want to point you to occurred in the book of Judges, chapter 19, before Israel raised up its first king but long after Abraham had passed on.

To give you a little back story, a woman from Bethlehem served as a concubine in the hill country of Ephraim, several miles northeast of her homeland. Scripture judges her as “unfaithful” since she left her protector, a Levite, and returned to her family. Since this journey would have taken several dangerous days, she must have had a startling reason for fleeing, don’t you think?

When the Levite came to Bethlehem to retrieve her, the concubine’s father kept imploring the couple to stay. He succeeded for awhile, but the Levite eventually insisted on journeying home. He gathered his belongings, including his concubine, and set off. Trouble was, the day had already advanced, leaving limited daylight. They strove to get as far as Gibeah, about nine miles north, before seeking their night’s lodging.

By the time they reached the city square, the sun had set. An old man spotted them there. Reminded of his father Abraham’s example, the old man’s actions are recorded in scripture:

20 “You are welcome at my house,” the old man said. “Let me supply whatever you need. Only don’t spend the night in the square.” 21 So he took him into his house and fed his donkeys. After they had washed their feet, they had something to eat and drink.

22 While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, “Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him.”

23 The owner of the house went outside and said to them, “No, my friends, don’t be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don’t do this outrageous thing. 24 Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But as for this man, don’t do such an outrageous thing.”

Wow. Suffice it to say, it ended better for Marcus in Lone Survivor than it did for this concubine. Since scripture doesn’t close the loop on the virgin daughter, we can only hope she was spared having to face the throng.

If we are all created in the image of God, how can we hold one another with such savage hands? Where do we go from here? What lessons can we glean from all of this? Here’s my take:

  • When we turn from God, the Father of Light, all we can possibly see or experience is darkness.

    • God’s good and perfect will is devoid of such ruthlessness. Though He commanded a cleansing as the Israelites entered into the Promised Land, the motive was selfless…He desired fellowship and prosperity for His chosen people.
    • As our eyes wander from the Light, we begin to see ourselves as God, able to discern between right and wrong. Since our motive is self-centered, our resulting actions are perverted, twisted, and warped.
    • Despite all this, God is ever the consummate gentleman. He will not force His will on us, even knowing the outcome our sinfulness will cause.
  • No matter how misguided, the element of sincerity lies at the root of every foul action. Whether we consider the nefarious nature of the Taliban that our soldiers flail against every day or the foolishness of the Levite as he and the old man pushed his concubine into the waiting arms of her abusers, sincerity can be found there. If we don’t look for it, we cannot understand the “why” of the situation. We cannot learn from it. We cannot determine to do better ourselves.
  • The more desperate the plight, the greater the need for unconditional hospitality. May we not be so far from need and want that we are blind to the needs and wants of others. May we have the courage to implore, “Lord, show us. Allow us to see the hurt, the filth, and the degradation of the world through Your eyes, with Your heart toward restoration.” In this act, we are most like God, showing His likeness to a distraught and hurting world.

So, what’d I miss? Make sure to comment so we can all learn from you.

P.S.: Remember. Look for opportunities to extend unconditional hospitality in your own life.

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photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/esme/7063682725/”>Esme_Vos</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>

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  1. Your perceptions never cease to amaze me! I will never grow tired of hearing your unique and healing words. Love you with all my heart. Johnny

  2. You are such an inspiration, my friend. Thanks for sharing; I enjoy reading your mind! Lord bless your home. Kittye Sharron; Author of soon to be published book: The Longest Letter: Incredible Hope.

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