Hebrews 13:2 Love the Stranger
Hebrews 13:2 Hospitality
It was in the heat of the day that the Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre. Abraham was sitting in the doorway of his tent to catch the breeze and a little shade. Abraham saw three men coming toward him. Abraham didn’t wait for the men to approach but rather arose and ran to meet them (Genesis 18:1-2). Abraham welcomed them in a traditional fashion by offered the shade of the oaks and providing water to wash their hot and dusty feet. Abraham immediately had Sarah make bread cakes, and a servant to prepare a tender and choice calf which Abraham himself had selected. Abraham had at least 300 servants. He could have chosen to have his chief steward, or another oversee but he chose to supervise and participate in the meal preparation. Curds, milk, and calf were placed before the guests as Abraham stood nearby like an English butler to serve them as needed. The result of Abraham’s hospitality was not only the promise of his son Isaac and the opportunity to seek the salvation Abe’s nephew, Lot, and his family, but also to seek the salvation of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot and his family were saved by the work of the angels of the Lord because “…God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot lived.” (Genesis 19: 29) Abraham’s heart is evident in his hospitality to the angels, his plea for the salvation of the cities, and in the fact that he arose early the next morning and looked toward the land of the valley to see the results of his plea. Indeed, Abraham entertained angels even when he, at first, was unaware of who they were. Although the Jews had other tales of angels and the Greeks their myths of gods in disguise, we have no need to make up stories of angel visitations for we have a historical record in the life of a man of faith as great as righteous Abraham and others—Gideon, Elijah, David, Zacharia, Joseph, Mary, Zacharias and Elizabeth, shepherds watching their flocks on the night of Jesus birth, Mary Magdalene at the tomb of Jesus, and Peter when released from prison--recorded in Scripture.
Hospitality, “the love of strangers” (Gr), is normally shown travelers as they are provided housing and care. Abraham was a host to guests, not because he expected angels but because it is the act of loving kindness in a life of faith. Later in the history of God’s chosen people, Moses is to write that the stranger/alien is not to be oppressed since they themselves had known the feelings of being a stranger in Egypt (Exodus 23:9); laws given to provide food and clothing for aliens (Deuteronomy 24:19-20; 26:12), and given rights in the courtroom (Deuteronomy 24:17; 27:19). Here is the love of strangers. Those who read this letter lived in a time when Inns were filthy, expensive, and of low reputation. For Christians addressed in this letter, hospitality was necessary—1) Slaves had no home of their own and thus needed refuge from time to time. 2) Wandering missionaries were always on the road. 3) Christian businessmen facing the temptations and dangers of travel. As one has said, “Christianity is the faith of the open door.”
Hospitality, “love of strangers”, is a New Testament standard for those who lead in the church (I Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8). Men and women are to show hospitality to strangers (I Timothy 5:10). John wrote to Gaius in III John 1:1-12 commending Gaius for “…walking in the truth…[and] acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers; and they have testified to your love before the church. You do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth.” John had written the church but Diotrephes, “…who loves to be first among them…” did not accept John’s teaching. It seems Diotrephes did not welcome any other who preaches and teaches and would forbid those who desired to do so.
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 clothes Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me…Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them you did it to Me.” Paul reminds us in Galatians 6 that we are to “…do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” It is all in the attitude, according to Peter (I Peter 4:9), “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.”
Hospitality is and expression of love, of care, of ministry, and of fellowship.
It is almost impossible to maintain a loving and caring church and a dynamic ministry unless believers are sharing fellowship together in their homes. In fact, Christ taught that we are to use our homes as centers of Christian love, fellowship, and outreach. Christ practiced home evangelism:at meals, he led men and women to faith and faithful acts of love he healed in homes and at one; the roof was removed to lower a paralytic into Christ’s presence because of the press of the crowd at doorways and window openings.
In teaching His disciples to go into a home and share faith, our Lord taught:
Hospitality in the home centers preaching and ministering in the community, right where people live and walk. It makes the presence of Christ visible to all in day-to-day living. It serves as the center from which the message can move out in an ever-widening circle, spreading from family to family.
Let us recapture the love that opens our hearts and homes to others.