It was all we could do to keep standing after hiking 26 miles a day through breathtaking and varied terrains.
I embarked on a group pilgrimage during the summer of 2019 through four countries in Europe on the Via Francigena trail.
This was a part of a five-week course at Truett Seminary with six classmates and our professor, Mike Stroope, who holds the M.C. Shook Chair of Missions.
Thanks to the planning of our professor, we always knew where we would end up. We also knew we had a place to stay each night – a tourist-friendly hostel, a quaint, family-run lodge or even a monastery or convent.
When we walked through the doors to these places, we were sweaty, tired and hungry. I cannot imagine the fragrance that followed us in.
Most days, however, we were greeted with wide smiles and delicious food. We were given places to stay that healed our aching muscles and our tired hearts.
It was through this practice of pilgrimage that I learned exactly what it means to receive hospitality.
In the Christian tradition, one of the spiritual gifts that is emphasized is “hospitality.” Hebrews 13:2 is often quoted in terms of “entertaining angels.” Beyond specific verses instructing hospitality, the concept is woven through Scripture as a part of the everyday lives of those whose stories we read.
This concept still rings true throughout the world today. In the United States, we could certainly restore quite a bit of this concept on every level, from our personal homes to our country as a whole.
Christians tend to focus on hospitality solely in the form of giving it. In our individualistic teachings, we should be able to provide everything for ourselves and then give what we have left to those who have less than we do and, if we’re honest, to those we subconsciously view as less than we are.
I propose that we expand our view of hospitality to include receiving by considering a different perspective on the story of the Good Samaritan that I have encountered in recent years.
Most sermons and interpretations focus on those passing by the man who was attacked. Will you be the priest? The Levite? Or the Samaritan? Jesus gives the Samaritan as the example of the utmost kindness and generosity – someone the Israelites would least expect.
While we can all learn from this generosity, it is also important to consider the viewpoint of the man who was attacked. What would we do in that situation? Who are we willing to accept help from in our time of need?
The Samaritan was the last person with whom an Israelite wanted to be associated. In the story, he was not only associated with him, but also was at his mercy. When I think about my circumstances, who is that person in my life? Who am I willing and not willing to accept help from?
If you take a moment to consider this for yourself, I hope you can be open to see the humanity in everyone and how each of us needs help sometimes.
When I have reflected more about my own hesitations in receiving hospitality, I recognize that it is about power. Though we are encouraged by Christ to give generously, whether it be our time, materials or otherwise, we can do so from a place of comfort.
When we are in a place to receive, we must give up our power. We enter a space of vulnerability that can be frightening. However, this space of vulnerability is also sacred.
Jesus demonstrated vulnerability for us time and time again, from coming to earth as a child to entering into a relationship with those who deserted and betrayed him. There is risk in receiving, but we get to see the eyes of Christ in those who give to us. In turn, they have the chance to see Christ in us too.
In this time of physical separation that hinders our ability to practice hospitality in the traditional sense, I hope that we can still both give and receive help to one another.
We are all in a time of need. While everyone’s situation is different, in a time of collective trauma, we are all, to some extent, the man in the parable who was beaten and left on the side of the road.
May we generously give like the Samaritan. May we also learn much more about how to receive hospitality when people generously give to us.
I physically experienced it on my pilgrimage last summer. I also know that I have experienced it on this pilgrimage of life over and over again.
Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series focused on engaging the emerging generations of faith leaders. If you know anyone who might be interested, encourage them to submit their article for consideration to email@example.com.
A dual-degree student pursuing a Master of Divinity from Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary and Master of Social Work from the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, she currently interns for The Center for Church and Community Impact and serves on a local church staff as Pastoral Associate in Waco, Texas.