I Was a Stranger: A Christian Theology of Hospitality

Article excerpt

I Was a Stranger: A Christian Theology of Hospitality by Arthur Sutherland Abingdon, Nashville, 2006. 100 pp. $12.00. ISBN 978-0687-06324-6.

IN THIS HIGHLY READABLE volume, Arthur Sutherland offers a theological account of hospitality understood as the practice of welcoming strangers, enemies, and the distressed. Sutherland develops his thesis by linking hospitality to Christology (Jesus as a homeless stranger), reconciliation (we were once both strangers and enemies to God), and most persuasively, eschatology (hope enables Christians both to welcome and wait).

A most interesting aspect of Sutherland's analysis is the range of resources he incorporates into his argument. These include African American spirituals, the theology of Karl Earth, feminist theology, and prison letters (from Kirn Dae Jung, Alfred DeIp, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer). The key claim of his book is that hospitality is "the practice by which the church stands or falls" (p. 83). The church requires this practice, according to Sutherland, because God's goal for all of creation is a kind of homecoming: a welcoming and a receiving.

The strength of this slim volume is the attention Sutherland gives to hospitality as a theological practice of the church. While some fear hospitality and others regard it as mere entertainment, Sutherland creatively shows how hospitality is both a joyful and serious practice, one to which God calls us because of who God is. …