Host or Guest?

I learned a new word this week and have already put it into practice. The word is XENIA. It is an ancient Greek concept of hospitality, translated as guest-friendship. The Greek god Zeus is sometimes called Zeus Xenios in his role as protector of strangers. We are much more familiar with the negative use of this word, as in Xenophobia, which is a fear or dislike of people from other countries or who are different from us in some way. But I prefer the positive use of the word.

Xenia is a big part of many Biblical stories. In fact, many times that we as modern western readers don’t understand a story, it’s because of xenia elements that are foreign to our culture. The story of the Good Samaritan is an example of this. We secretly wonder if we meet Jesus’ definition of a neighbor. Let’s consider several references to anchor the idea of xenia: 

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2) In the first century church, hospitality was included in the job description for leaders. Our western culture does not value this Biblical requirement for church leaders today, but what if it did? What if the church, specifically Christians, were where someone could go when they were a stranger in town or needed help? I don’t know if I’ve entertained any angels but I do know that every time I’ve shown kindness to a stranger, I’ve been blessed in some way.

Jesus said, “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; in prison, and you came to Me.” In the story the righteous asked, “When did we do these things for you?” And Jesus answered “To the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:35-40) Truly this is one of the most sobering passages spoken by Jesus.

And going back even further in time, to the very beginnings of the Judeo-Christian faith just after the Ten Commandments were given, we read: “You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9) So there it is, the foundation of xenia. We understand what it is like to be a stranger because we each have been a stranger in some context. We understand what it is like to be the new kid at school, starting a job, a stranger in a town. We understand being vulnerable, unsure, lonely, or insecure. We have been a stranger in some Egypt somewhere.

In California we walk right past people—at church, in our neighborhood, standing on the corner, shopping next to us. It would be odd to talk to a stranger. But in Idaho, we have had the privilege of being the new kids in town. The number of people we know in Hailey/Ketchum, Idaho can be counted on one hand. I decided to try out my new word, xenia. At the little 4th of July parade in town, I invited people on the street to come to our home afterward for a BBQ. The hilarious thing is that they came! It turns out many people around us feel like strangers. They are grateful for hospitality. Hopefully we have deepened their definition of Christian to include xenia, a kindness toward strangers. Either way, I’m happy to meet new friends!

Check out Romans 12:13 this week. At first glance it tells us to show hospitality, but if we dig deeper, we find it expresses a command to eagerly pursue hospitality. We are called to be a host, not a guest, in almost any conversation or encounter. Pursue xenia this week and see if you are not blessed!

Next week I’ll post my monthly mashup. Be sure to subscribe to my blog and visit www.MargaretAllen.org for resources. Please share your stories of xenia in the comments. Have a beautiful week, everyone!


Good Friends

“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15

Do we consider ourselves friends of Christ? Honestly, sometimes it’s easier to just be a servant! We secretly attempt to compartmentalize our faith by choosing to “serve” at strategic junctures while keeping some parts of our heart separate, private. And even while Christ deserves obedience, what He has called us to is actual friendship. This friendship is a little key that opens the big doors of blessing from God.

When we consider friendship with Christ as the overarching principle of being a Christian, then the underlying character traits make sense. Stay with me: last week we saw that humility and worship were ways of partnering with God to unlock the doors to a full life. If I am truly focused on being a close friend with Christ, humility is a natural response! Worship makes total sense. If I am vulnerable and transparent before the Lord, seeking to be His friend, then a hunger for righteousness is completely in line. Gratitude isn’t so much a practice as it is a natural outflow of my friendship with our loving Savior.

This week I’ve reflected on my friendship with God. I’ve asked Him how we could be closer. I’ve also asked if there were thoughts or behaviors that initiated distance rather than intimacy. I have discovered over and over that distance is my choice and not His. But when Jesus said, “I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you,” He was establishing His desire for closeness and communication.

Think about your friendship with God this week. Do the things that good friends do: spend time together, share your heart with honesty and vulnerability, laugh, sing, cry. Give honor and credit. Be grateful. Value what He values. Ask questions.

May the joy and peace that uniquely belongs to Christ, fill you to overflowing this week. May this key of friendship with Christ open beautiful doors of blessing in your life.

Check out my book, Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion. Read it on your own or go through it with friends. I enjoy zoom calls with groups that are reading through Gracious Living together and discovering such joy in the journey. Check out my website for more at http://www.MargaretAllen.org



You don’t have to always agree on her stance to appreciate her impact on our country, especially for women. Ruth Bader Ginsberg said, “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.” Her opinions gave voice to women in our country deserving equal rights along with equal opportunities. 

I know I don’t usually talk politics but may I share what RBG represents to me? Included in my book, Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion, is a story about a college student who said she couldn’t be friends with someone who believed there should be a wall. “I burst out laughing. ‘That’s bull, I said. Look at Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Antonin Scalia! They couldn’t have been farther apart in their political views, and yet they were lifelong friends who enjoyed family vacations together. You couldn’t be friends with someone with a different view on how to run the country? Do you realize how narrow-minded and petty that view is?” (p.55) Surely, we can be bigger than this.

David French summed it up for me in his recent tweet, “I hope and pray that the passings of Justice Scalia and now Justice Ginsburg don’t also herald the end of an era they modeled in their own relationship – when deep friendship could flourish across profound disagreements.” RBG represented strong belief coupled with a gracious lifestyle.

I know how difficult it is when our political views are bound with what we consider morally true. Many of us feel we are defending the moral rights of humanity with our politics. RBG gripped impassioned morals in her political stance and yet she didn’t allow it to be a defense for isolationism or hostility.  I question a sense of morality that promotes behavior contrary to basic human kindness.  

The Psalmist wrote, “My soul has dwelt too long with one who hates peace. I am for peace; But when I speak, they are for war.” (Psalm 120:6,7) We are entering a contentious season for our country. Are you for peace, dear Christian? Are you a person of peace? (The Hebrew word for peace is shalom, meaning wholeness, peace, harmony, wellbeing) Or are you for war- for discord, variance, strife, and quarreling? Are you bent on continual hostility? I know kind and gracious Christians who contort into angry, snarling beasts on Facebook.

In this election season, I am committed to RBG-style “deep friendship that flourishes across profound disagreements.” No matter which side of the aisle, I am bound to the human right and dignity of every person I encounter. I am creating cultures all around me—in my home, my church, the grocery store, work, and social media—full of honor, love, and compassion. How are you creating a loving environment in your circles of influence? Please share your methods of bringing peaceful, healthy discourse.


You can find my book, Gracious Living, at www.margaretallen.org or anywhere books are sold.