Saved by Faith and Hospitality

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Joshua W. Jipp
  • Grand Rapids, MI: 
    Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
    , August
     2017.
     220 pages.
     $20.00.
     Paperback.
    ISBN
    9780802875051.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

Saved by Faith and Hospitality owes its title to the early Christian text known as 1 Clement, whose author asserts that Abraham, Lot, and Rahab were saved by faith and hospitality. Joshua W. Jipp takes up this theme and argues that hospitality to strangers is central to Christian faith because “the God of the Christian Scriptures is a God of hospitality” (2). Christians imitate God when they extend hospitality, build relationships, and share with the stranger. Jipp defines hospitality as “the act or process whereby the identity of the stranger is transformed into that of guest,” and then into friends (2). It is precisely because Christians are recipients of God’s hospitality that the church then reflects that hospitality to one another and the world.

This book is divided into two parts. The first part investigates divine hospitality through the New Testament writings of Luke-Acts, Paul, and the Gospel of John. Chapter 1 analyzes the mediation of divine hospitality through Jesus to sinners, outcasts, and strangers. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus shares meals with outsiders that offer restoration and renewal and at the same time point toward the eschatological feast with the Messiah. Imitating Jesus, the apostles are sent out to host meals in Jesus’s name that will be meals of peace and friendship-making in the presence of the risen Lord. Jipp reflects upon his own work teaching incarcerated persons in a system that “dehumanizes those who are already the most vulnerable in our society and brands them with labels and stereotypes from which they can almost never escape” (43). In chapter 2, Jipp considers how the church can “show hospitality to fellow Christians with whom we have ethnic, cultural, sociological, or political differences” (51). Paul attempted to create and articulate a common identity that would transcend the diverse backgrounds of those in his churches. Paul’s vision of hospitality is grounded in the welcome received from Christ and follows the cruciform model of sacrificial suffering and death. Shared meals, other-regarding love, friendship, and family metaphors further characterize the wide ranging presence of internal hospitality between Christians. The central focus of chapter 3 is how the Gospel of John portrays Jesus “as a stranger who leaves his natural heavenly habitat with God in order to make his temporary abode on earth with humans” (80). From the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, Jesus takes up the role of divine host, revealing love and knowledge of God to the world. As a guest at the wedding in Cana, Jesus takes up the role of host by providing good wine. Jesus washes his disciples’ feet in an act that manifests Jesus’s love for his disciples and exemplifies the disciples’ commission to imitate this love. Jesus’s crucified body and blood are represented by the symbols of hospitality, wine, water, and bread providing nourishment and communion for the world.

Part 2 refocuses attention on human responsibility for hospitality as host and as guest. In chapter 4, Jipp returns to Paul as an example of relational engagement with strangers as both provider and receiver of hospitality. In the Acts of the Apostles, Paul acts as host with his shipmates even though a prisoner. When shipwrecked, the Maltese “barbarians” are unexpected hosts to Paul and his shipmates. Paul portrays himself as a good guest, always adapting to the social context, following the example of Christ who “voluntarily became man, became a slave, became obedient to death, became a curse, became sin, became poor” for humanity (112). Likewise, the church is called to care for the poor, oppressed, incarcerated, and susceptible, sharing and receiving hospitality as the context requires. Chapter 5 illustrates how xenophobia and rejection of immigrants are antithetical to the witness of the Old Testament. Even after the Israelites were delivered from enslavement in Egypt and entered the promised land, Israel continued to identify itself as an immigrant people. Jipp argues that this perpetual immigrant identity and dependence on God is a theological vision of hospitality. He claims that Torah clearly states that “God loves that stranger and stands as a safeguard against their abuse” (139). Examining the hospitality of Abraham and Lot, the inhospitality of Sodom, and the story of the Levite and his concubine in Judges 19, Jipp concludes that God rewards hospitality and condemns inhospitality. The story of Ruth subverts the stereotype of the suspicious immigrant and demonstrates how the legislation of hospitality provides protection for a vulnerable foreign widow. Jipp commends Christians to educate and advocate for just and equitable legislation on immigration policies, and seeking meaningful relationships with immigrants and refugees. In his final chapter, Jipp contrasts the divine economy with an idolatrous economy of greed and consumption. Jesus upends the social order by rejecting an ethics of reciprocity and exchange of resources and enacting blessing on the poor and the hungry. The church is to live into the divine economy and, according to Jipp, this means seeing and responding to the needs of others, recognizing desires and patterns antithetical to the divine economy, and dedication to acts of mercy, solidarity, and commitment toward the vulnerable.

This book is equally suited for an upper-level undergraduate or seminary classroom or an advanced small group study. Each chapter ends with a reflection on imaginatively embodying divine hospitality in the church. Jipp’s passion for uncovering how intimately the gospel and hospitality are intertwined speaks from his own experiences and examples of Christian hospitality in today’s world. These concrete and actionable suggestions resonate directly in a contemporary North American context but have a wider application as well. Helpful footnotes throughout suggest resources for further study and discussion questions are helpful guides for further reflection and conversation. For readers who are willing to take the biblical witness to the role of hospitality in the life of the church seriously, Jipp’s book will illumine and empower its reader to step boldly into the divine economy of shared love, friendship, and hospitality.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Kyle A. Schenkewitz is visiting assistant professor of religion and philosophy at Wartburg College.

Date of Review: 
November 8, 2017
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Joshua W. Jipp is assistant professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

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