Should we take strangers in as Paul instructed in Hebrews 13:2?

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By BibleAsk Team


The instruction given in Hebrews 13:2 to show hospitality to strangers is indeed a significant aspect of Christian ethics and has practical implications for believers today. To explore this topic, we must delve into the biblical context of hospitality, the teachings of Jesus and the apostles, and the application of this principle in contemporary society.

Biblical Context of Hospitality:

Hospitality holds a prominent place in the Bible, with numerous examples of hospitality being extended and encouraged throughout both the Old and New Testaments.

The Old Testament gives us examples of people who were hospitable to strangers, who turned out to be angels appearing in human form sent from God on special missions. Such examples include the experience of Abraham (Genesis 18:1–8), of Lot (Genesis 19:1–3), of Gideon (Judges 6:11–20), and Manoah (Judges 13:2–4, 9–21).

In the New Testament, Jesus Himself accepted hospitality by dining with sinners, tax collectors, and outcasts, demonstrating God’s love and acceptance for all people (Luke 5:29-32; Luke 7:36-50). Jesus also instructed His disciples to extend hospitality to others, teaching them to love their neighbors as themselves and to show kindness to those in need (Luke 10:25-37).

Jesus taught His children that the second greatest commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). The believers are “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (Ephesians 2:10). As they serve and attend to the needs of others and minster to them, they have the promise that God will certainly reward them in heaven (Matthew 25:35).

Paul’s Instruction in Hebrews 13:2:

In Hebrews 13:2, the author exhorts believers to practice hospitality, stating, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels” (NKJV). This instruction underscores the importance of showing kindness and generosity to those who are in need, including strangers and travelers. While not every stranger may be an angel in disguise, the principle of hospitality remains unchanged: by welcoming strangers into our midst, we may have the opportunity to extend God’s love and grace to others.

Hospitality in the Early Church:

The practice of hospitality was central to the life of the early Christian community. In the book of Acts, we see examples of believers opening their homes to fellow believers, providing for their needs, and sharing meals together in a spirit of fellowship and unity (Acts 2:42-47; Acts 4:32-37; Acts 16:14-15).

The Apostle Paul, in his epistles, also emphasizes the importance of hospitality as a mark of Christian character and virtue. In Romans 12:13, he instructs believers to “distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality” (NKJV), highlighting the role of hospitality in caring for fellow believers and building up the body of Christ.

Theological Basis for Hospitality:

At its core, hospitality is rooted in the biblical principle of love for neighbor and the recognition of the inherent dignity and worth of every individual. In Matthew 25:35-40, Jesus teaches that acts of kindness and compassion shown to others are ultimately expressions of love for Him:

“For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me… Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (NKJV).

This passage underscores the intimate connection between hospitality and discipleship, as believers are called to serve and care for others as if they were serving Christ Himself.

Practical Implications for Today:

In contemporary society, the practice of hospitality takes on various forms and expressions, depending on cultural norms, individual circumstances, and personal preferences. While not every believer may be able to open their home to strangers, there are still many ways to extend hospitality to others in need.

Some practical ways to practice hospitality today may include:

  • Volunteering at homeless shelters, soup kitchens, or community food banks
  • Offering financial assistance or practical support to those experiencing homelessness or poverty
  • Welcoming newcomers or immigrants into the community and helping them adjust to their new environment
  • Providing meals, transportation, or temporary lodging for travelers or individuals in crisis
  • Participating in church-based ministries or outreach programs that serve the needs of the marginalized and vulnerable

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the biblical instruction to practice hospitality remains relevant and compelling for believers today. As followers of Christ, we are called to emulate His example of love, compassion, and generosity towards others, including strangers and travelers in need. By extending hospitality to others, we have the opportunity to demonstrate God’s love in tangible ways, build relationships, and create communities of welcome and inclusion. As Hebrews 13:2 reminds us, in showing kindness to strangers, we may unwittingly be entertaining angels or encountering the presence of Christ Himself.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

Categories Law

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