I Was A Stranger: A Christian Theology of Hospitality


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These approaches or models are used in order to pedagogically explain and group missiological and dialogical styles that coincide in most of their characteristics. In the case of the exclusivist approach, dialogue with the religious and non-religious other is almost completely aimed at the transformation and conversion of the other as a missiological goal; there is almost no room for any kind of conversion of the self as a result of the encounter. In practice, from this perspective a successful dialogue is one in which, at the end, the other becomes like me, embraces my faith, and this same faith remains unscathed, stronger and unchanged.

On the other hand, the inclusivist approach pretends to keep a balance between faithfulness to Christian identity and openness to dialogue, but the asymmetrical relationship this proposes creates an imbalance between the two sides; the otherness of the other is almost not taken into account, the other is understood in Christian terms and all kind of religious practices and beliefs are, in practice, secondary to the salvific act of the Christian redeemer. The tension between openness to the other and faithfulness to Christian identity may be considered more evident in ecumenical efforts.

In these efforts, the otherness of the others is not limited to one or two national, ethnic or socio-economic realities; on the contrary, a multicultural reality characterizes them. This will definitely challenge the way dialogue is achieved. In my opinion, in order to have a fruitful dialogue, it is necessary to develop a hermeneutical openness that allows the strange to become more familiar, and the familiar stranger, as Kearney affirms Kearney Next, I will develop a theological paradigm for missiology and ecumenical dialogue, based on the hermeneutics of hospitality of the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur and some Christian theologians who have worked on this topic.

Central to Christian mission and ecumenical dialogue is the tension between openness to the other, his context, culture and reality on the one hand and faithfulness to Christian identity characterized by its values and traditions on the other. This is a tension that marks the manner in which the Church performs mission, relates to intercultural efforts, ecumenical dialogue and understands itself in the world.

I Was a Stranger A Christian Theology of Hospitality, Arthur Sutherland. (Paperback )

Some Christian traditions like those already studied reflect this tension in different ways. The communitarian or personal cultures involved in Christian mission or ecumenical dialogue and the personal religious identities of the participants will certainly play a major role and the tension between them should be taken into account. Thus, in the case of Christian mission, a tension will be experienced between the missiological culture of the Christian tradition that supports mission, the individual religious identity of those who take part in the missionary effort and the local culture where mission will be performed.

In the case of Ecumenical dialogue, a similar situation could be experienced between the communitarian identity and ecumenical dispositions of those Christian traditions or denominations involved in dialogue and the individual religious identities of people from many different places, ages and religious cultures who participate.

In this respect, hospitality involves both: a practice of receiving the other, the stranger; and it also involves a hermeneutical openness that makes possible a fruitful dialogue by considering the respective cultural backgrounds and Christian traditions of the participants. In this sense, the Christian tradition of hospitality can serve as a source of inspiration.

Hospitality, as a practice that includes respect and care for the other, not only provides a safe haven and support for the stranger, but also enriches the understanding of the local church about its responsibilities, its place in the world and its mission. A motivation for hospitality lies in the idea that God reveals himself in the stranger, the other. Finding God in the other is an idea with a long history in the Christian Church.

For example, in the tradition of story of the journey on the road to Emmaus Luke , Christ reveals himself in the foreigner, but only when he is invited to stay and share bread with them, when they are hospitable with him. As in the parable of the Good Samaritan, it is the completely other, the strangest person on the road, who gives the opportunity for the coming of the Kingdom of God.

Besides, it can provide a good insight into the position from which ecumenical dialogue and Christian mission are performed. In this sense, becoming a stranger is in the first place an ontological requirement for Christian mission. It offends precisely because becoming a stranger and incarnating his vulnerability defies the values of a society that claims the affirmation of the self, his needs and interests.

27 thoughts

The New Testament and the gospels contain plenty of exhortations about the hospitable character of the Church. By reaffirming the hospitable character of ecumenical dialogue and mission, we remember that the incarnation, life, ministry and death of Jesus were marked by strangeness and his entire ministry relied on the hospitality that was provided by people along the way. Hermeneutical Hospitality presents itself as a model of self-giving love and vocation in the incarnation of Christ, in which God actively decides to empty himself of everything but love.

In order that he can be completely identified with the other, he immerses himself completely in a situation of vulnerability in a real act of human-human solidarity. This is closely related to the dialectic of appropriation and expropriation proposed by Ricoeur, in which he affirms that people must lose themselves as a precondition for finding themselves by receiving the other.

Practicing a truly ecumenical dialogue and mission means abolishing an asymmetrical relationship in which one receives the other and helps him, in order to create a horizontal relationship between equals in which both are guests and each side recognizes himself as a stranger. This presupposes an acceptance that the identities of both sides are fragile, are in constant change, challenged by a multicultural context and formed by some strange elements that are unknown to the person.

In ecumenical dialogue and Christian mission, it is only when one recognizes the fragility and strangeness of their own identity in the first place that a real hospitality can emerge. According to Lindbeck it is necessary to appropriate first the Christian language and Christian skills in order to experience reality in a Christian manner.

A Meal Says More than You Think

In addition, some theologians criticize precisely what many people consider to be the strong point of the inclusivist approach; that is, the claim of a supposed balance between faithfulness to Christian identity and openness to the religious other implying that both are in a certain manner opposed.

Finally, one of the greatest weaknesses of an inclusivist missiological or dialogical approach is precisely the little importance that this approach attaches to the strangeness and singularity of other religious traditions. Thus, any kind of dialogue will be previously conditioned. These approaches or models are used in order to pedagogically explain and group missiological and dialogical styles that coincide in most of their characteristics.

In the case of the exclusivist approach, dialogue with the religious and non-religious other is almost completely aimed at the transformation and conversion of the other as a missiological goal; there is almost no room for any kind of conversion of the self as a result of the encounter. In practice, from this perspective a successful dialogue is one in which, at the end, the other becomes like me, embraces my faith, and this same faith remains unscathed, stronger and unchanged.

The Gospel of Hospitality: Developing a Theology Around Food. Revelation 3:15-20

On the other hand, the inclusivist approach pretends to keep a balance between faithfulness to Christian identity and openness to dialogue, but the asymmetrical relationship this proposes creates an imbalance between the two sides; the otherness of the other is almost not taken into account, the other is understood in Christian terms and all kind of religious practices and beliefs are, in practice, secondary to the salvific act of the Christian redeemer. The tension between openness to the other and faithfulness to Christian identity may be considered more evident in ecumenical efforts.

In these efforts, the otherness of the others is not limited to one or two national, ethnic or socio-economic realities; on the contrary, a multicultural reality characterizes them.

This will definitely challenge the way dialogue is achieved. In my opinion, in order to have a fruitful dialogue, it is necessary to develop a hermeneutical openness that allows the strange to become more familiar, and the familiar stranger, as Kearney affirms Kearney Next, I will develop a theological paradigm for missiology and ecumenical dialogue, based on the hermeneutics of hospitality of the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur and some Christian theologians who have worked on this topic.

Central to Christian mission and ecumenical dialogue is the tension between openness to the other, his context, culture and reality on the one hand and faithfulness to Christian identity characterized by its values and traditions on the other. This is a tension that marks the manner in which the Church performs mission, relates to intercultural efforts, ecumenical dialogue and understands itself in the world. Some Christian traditions like those already studied reflect this tension in different ways.

The communitarian or personal cultures involved in Christian mission or ecumenical dialogue and the personal religious identities of the participants will certainly play a major role and the tension between them should be taken into account. Thus, in the case of Christian mission, a tension will be experienced between the missiological culture of the Christian tradition that supports mission, the individual religious identity of those who take part in the missionary effort and the local culture where mission will be performed. In the case of Ecumenical dialogue, a similar situation could be experienced between the communitarian identity and ecumenical dispositions of those Christian traditions or denominations involved in dialogue and the individual religious identities of people from many different places, ages and religious cultures who participate.

In this respect, hospitality involves both: a practice of receiving the other, the stranger; and it also involves a hermeneutical openness that makes possible a fruitful dialogue by considering the respective cultural backgrounds and Christian traditions of the participants. In this sense, the Christian tradition of hospitality can serve as a source of inspiration. Hospitality, as a practice that includes respect and care for the other, not only provides a safe haven and support for the stranger, but also enriches the understanding of the local church about its responsibilities, its place in the world and its mission.

A motivation for hospitality lies in the idea that God reveals himself in the stranger, the other. Finding God in the other is an idea with a long history in the Christian Church. For example, in the tradition of story of the journey on the road to Emmaus Luke , Christ reveals himself in the foreigner, but only when he is invited to stay and share bread with them, when they are hospitable with him. As in the parable of the Good Samaritan, it is the completely other, the strangest person on the road, who gives the opportunity for the coming of the Kingdom of God.

Besides, it can provide a good insight into the position from which ecumenical dialogue and Christian mission are performed. In this sense, becoming a stranger is in the first place an ontological requirement for Christian mission. It offends precisely because becoming a stranger and incarnating his vulnerability defies the values of a society that claims the affirmation of the self, his needs and interests.

The New Testament and the gospels contain plenty of exhortations about the hospitable character of the Church. By reaffirming the hospitable character of ecumenical dialogue and mission, we remember that the incarnation, life, ministry and death of Jesus were marked by strangeness and his entire ministry relied on the hospitality that was provided by people along the way. Hermeneutical Hospitality presents itself as a model of self-giving love and vocation in the incarnation of Christ, in which God actively decides to empty himself of everything but love.

In order that he can be completely identified with the other, he immerses himself completely in a situation of vulnerability in a real act of human-human solidarity. The accounts described here offer widely varied models for understanding the moral import of our encounters with strangers. I will suggest, however, that they also share a common thematic element — namely, that the stranger always stands before us as an invitation. Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF. Skip to main content. Advertisement Hide. Theology and the Invitation of the Stranger.

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I Was A Stranger: A Christian Theology of Hospitality
I Was A Stranger: A Christian Theology of Hospitality
I Was A Stranger: A Christian Theology of Hospitality
I Was A Stranger: A Christian Theology of Hospitality
I Was A Stranger: A Christian Theology of Hospitality
I Was A Stranger: A Christian Theology of Hospitality
I Was A Stranger: A Christian Theology of Hospitality

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