Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
If you enter Britain illegally, you will be detained and swiftly removed. — Suella Braverman, 7th March 2023
And his master said unto him, We will not turn aside hither into the city of a stranger, that is not of the children of Israel; we will pass over to Gibeah. / And they turned aside thither, to go in and to lodge in Gibeah: and when he went in, he sat him down in a street of the city: for there was no man that took them into his house to lodging.
— Judges 19:12,15
The story of the Levite and his concubine that concludes the book of Judges is one of debauchery and moral depravity, and arguably the most disturbing story in the entire Bible.1 I won't go into the narrative here; it is sufficient to say it is a story of betrayal, gang rape, human butchery, vengeance, civil war, murder, kidnapping and sexual slavery. God's law is violated in every way imaginable, and some beyond imagination. And it starts with the bland, almost unnoticeable line, there was no man that took them into his house to lodging.
Hebraic law demands hospitality: The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.2 Before it is even written down into law the principle of radical hospitality is exemplified in the story of Abraham and Sarah entertaining the three strangers. 3 By their absolute indifference to the strangers sitting on the street in their own city the citizens of Gibeah show their utter disrespect for (or perhaps ignorance of) God's law, their lack of hospitality being a prelude to everything that follows.
Hospitality, although encoded into the law of Israel, and practiced periodically did not really come into its own as a way of life until centuries later, when it became an important part of the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, and was adopted by the disciples during and after Jesus' death. Today though, few Christians would be considered to live by this principle, indeed few people at all in the western world. We have become suspicious of the strangers among us, casting them out rather than inviting them in. The UK has gone so far as to deliberately create, under prime minister Teresa May, a 'hostile environment' and have this encoded into law, a law that is as far as one could travel from God's law. There may be a correlation between hospitality and crime, in that the less hospitable a culture becomes the more the individual feels justified in committing acts of theft, rape, and violence. There is no balancing factor, little sense of community and loyalty to our fellows. We are a nation of rugged individuals, not a collective of kind hearts and open arms.
1The story is so distasteful that the commentator F.B. Meyer recommended not reading it, commenting that it "shows the depths of the depravity to which man may sink apart from the grace of God."
2 Leviticus 19:34
3 Genesis 18:1-7. It is this episode that prompts the command in Hebrews 13:2, Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares..