By Dr. Alex Mikulich, JSRI Research Fellow
At the very heart of Hebrew and Christian scriptures, hospitality is a way to understand the unity of the commandments to love God and love neighbor. God’s call to welcome the stranger reveals the radically universal love of God, the fact that God’s love overflows for the whole of creation, and that we are called to share that love with all others in the world. However, practicing hospitality—or solidarity—is no easy task for North American Christians whose relative power and advantage may block us from hearing, much less practicing, the biblical call to welcome newcomers in our midst.
I say “the radically universal love of God” because in Torah, God’s call to the people of Israel to extend love to the stranger and alien in their midst would have sounded absurd to a tribal people. It may sound too abstract to North Americans or lose its particular meaning if we do not attend to its historical context. In the ancient Middle East, the gods of most groups were narrowly tribal or nationalistic. Also, there was no notion of the individual as it has developed in Western modernity. Identity was wrapped up with the tribe and in the demands of the tribal gods. Identity—and physical survival—was impossible if one was separated from the clan.