Dr. Christine Pohl believes the two main components of hospitality are food and conversation. On the first day of an intensive class, she invites her students to break bread together as the course begins. . For the past 29 years her classes have modeled the ancient tradition of hospitality and equipped her students to lead faithful communities in which everyone is valued.
“Hospitality is making room for people in a place where, unless you invited them, they wouldn’t feel free to come,” Dr. Pohl said.
In ancient times, hospitality served as a vehicle for sharing the Gospel. It was crucial in addressing the Gentile and Jew distinctions because all were invited and welcomed to God’s table by Jesus. However, the tradition of hospitality has often been overlooked in the last 400 years.
“Part of the challenge is recovering a meaningful understanding of hospitality,” Dr. Pohl said. “In the ancient world, hospitality was seen as a pillar of morality. In those days there weren’t restaurants or hotels. Everyone depended on somebody’s hospitality.”
Throughout the Bible, Dr. Pohl notes that hospitality is seen as central to faithfulness, specifically in the accounts of Abraham, Sarah and the angels; Elijah and the widow of Zarephath; Elisha and the Shunammite woman; and finally in the person of Jesus and the practice of the early church.
In the New Testament, readers encounter Jesus as both guest and host. Not only does He feed people and converse with those on the margins of society,, but he is also willing to be their guest.
“In the Gospel of John, Jesus describes himself as the bread,” she said. “So he is guest, host, stranger and meal.”
Dr. Pohl first saw hospitality modeled by her grandmother, who was orphaned at age 13. Dr. Pohl’s grandma lived by the motto that “no one should ever be alone,” and taught Dr. Pohl to do the same.