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Hebrews 13:2

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

Love is the chief Christian virtue (1 Cor. 13:13), so it makes sense that the author of Hebrews begins his chapter of practical exhortation by commanding his audience to continue in brotherly love (13:1). Much of what follows in Hebrews 13 actually reflects this exhortation to show love to others. We see this in Hebrews 13:2 and its call for us to show hospitality to strangers.

Ancient peoples prized hospitality. Traveling was not always safe, and inns were dangerous places to stay when one was on a journey. Christians relied particularly on the hospitality of strangers. As members of a new religious movement, Christians often had to endure rejection and inhospitable conduct from the Jews and pagans around them (Acts 17:1–9; 19:21–41). During His earthly ministry, Jesus had no place to lay His head (Matt. 8:20)—He had no permanent home. He depended on the hospitality of others. So, a willingness to be hospitable to strangers was particularly important for the Christian community. Many Christians relied on the hospitality of “strangers” who were also professing believers in Jesus, men and women in the church whom they had never met before. It is a special display of Christian love to show hospitality to believers whom we do not know well.

The author of Hebrews adds further motivation for showing hospitality to strangers, explaining that in so doing, we may be entertaining angels without knowing it (Heb. 13:2). Most commentators believe the author is thinking of Genesis 18, which records Abraham’s visit with three men at the oaks of Mamre. These men turned out to be supernatural figures—angels—as Genesis 19 makes plain. Abraham went to great effort to be hospitable to these men, whose angelic nature was not evident to him, at least at first. In fact, later Jewish tradition came to view Abraham as the example of hospitality par excellence because of his warm welcome of the angels.

A simple command to show hospitality in the Word of God is sufficient to make us understand the importance of being hospitable. That the strangers to whom we show kindness might even be angels makes us all the more willing to be hospitable to others. When we reject strangers, particularly professing Christian strangers, we might be rejecting supernatural agents of the Lord.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

A willingness to show hospitality insofar as we are able is an important part of obeying the Lord. It also helps us grow in the virtue of love. As we get to know Christian strangers better, we learn how to love them better and thus have more opportunities to show brotherly love. We should be going out of our way to be hospitable to fellow church members whom we do not yet know well and to show hospitality to traveling missionaries when they visit.

For Further Study
  • Exodus 22:21
  • Deuteronomy 10:19
  • Romans 12:13
  • 1 Peter 4:9

Continuing Brotherly Love

Remembering Prisoners

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From the August 2020 Issue
Aug 2020 Issue