Entertaining Angels Unawares
Raymond Keller of Bedford, OH, USA
Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. -Hebrews 13:1-3
Hebrews 13 opens with some practical admonitions for the Christian to continue to live a worthy life. The author of Hebrews was quite aware that fellow Christians, scattered as they were throughout the empire, had frequently demonstrated sympathy and kindness to each other; and that by all means, they should certainly keep on in this same manner of friendliness. But now it was time to lengthen strides.
The writer wants Christians to extend this sympathy and kindness to strangers as well, possibly as a tool of evangelization. By entertaining visitors to the congregations, a minister or their ministry might be rewarded in unusual ways.
Perhaps the author of Hebrews was thinking about the experiences of Abraham and Lot in Genesis 18 and 19, when these men, their families, and entourages encountered beneficent angels. Sarah, Abraham’s wife, conceived a child of promise. Lot and his family were given a warning to flee Sodom and were saved. Both families welcomed and heartily received the visitation of angels.
The author of Hebrews wanted Christians to pay particular attention to those who were imprisoned or suffering from illness or persecution, because all who dwell in this world are equally liable and prone to suffer in some of the same ways.
This is comforting to Christians. We can be sure that God’s angels are ever watchful and paying close attention to all of us here on earth. They are God’s messengers (Luke 1:26-38). They are sent by God to be our protectors (Psalms 91:11). They worship at the throne of God (Isaiah 6:3). And when necessary, they fight as God’s warriors (2 Kings 19:35).
“Attention is the beginning of devotion” (Mary Oliver).
Spend a few moments paying attention, wherever you are. Notice your surroundings. What draws your focus? Look more closely at detail and color. Notice what pulls or prods within you. How is the God-in-all-things speaking to you through what you see and feel right here, right now?
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