Why not make room at your table, in the middle of your holiday traditions, to welcome a far-from-home international student? Your life will be enriched as you practice biblical hospitality. Your entire family will engage in global-local missions (without any need for a passport to go on a short term missions trip), And, you will go back to the future. Pragmatically, international students cannot “go home” for the holidays. They miss their families. But, what do I mean that you and your family can go back to the future?
First, consider that Christian hospitality contrasts with holiday entertaining. Jesus reminds us that hospitality is not inviting your friends, relatives, or business associates (typical holiday guests). Jesus says in Luke 14:12: “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid.” Biblical hospitality contrasts with entertaining: you offer a place to reflect God’s grace, and expect no repayment.
What is biblical or Christian hospitality? Here’s my definition: to welcome strangers graciously in Jesus’ Name, to treat them as your honored guests, to invite them into your home and life, and to offer them a place of safety, growth and healing. Notice that the key point is that you welcome strangers (that is, foreigners or outsiders), and not just people like you! The New Testament word for hospitality (xeno + philia) literally means family love for a stranger or outsider. The practice of hospitality is a grace that transforms strangers into friends, and international students into your extended family.
Why do I say you can go “back” to the future when you welcome international students? God’s Old Testament people were reminded each year that they were sojourners, not settlers. The Feast of Tabernacles was intended to be an annual national campout. God’s people were reminded that they were sojourners, not landed settlers in the land. Each year, the people declared, “my father was a wandering Aramean…” (Deuteronomy 26:5). You and your family can learn from international students — resident strangers — that God calls Christians to be sojourners and exiles, not landed settlers in this world (1 Peter 1:1, 2:11).
You also go “back” because you remember you were once a foreigner to God’s kingdom, without hope in this world. But Jesus Christ redeemed and welcomed you through his sacrifice for you. (Ephesians 2:12-13). Remembering the Gospel motivates hospitality.
Why do I say you experience the “future” when you welcome international students? Because a holiday table that makes room for bright young internationals along with your relatives and covenant children is a glimpse of the future of God’s kingdom. On the great Day of Christ, “people will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God (Luke 13:29).” So, along with cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, why not experience an antipasto of the future kingdom of God?
Give this some prayerful thought. Then, contact the nearest RUF International campus minister or another ministry to invite a lonely international student to your table!
Al LaCour serves as the nationwide director for Reformed University Fellowship – International. Al equips churches and campus ministries to “welcome the nations and equip kingdom ambassadors.” Al is a graduate of Georgia Tech and Westminster Seminary. He served as a church planter and senior pastor of four churches before transitioning to international student ministry.
This article was originally published on the blog of Reformed University Fellowship and is reposted here with permission.