Hebrews 13:1-3 Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison…
There is no way around it. As Christians, we are commanded by Jesus to love our neighbors (Matthew 22:39). The passage above says we are even to love strangers. This is not natural for me. It is natural for me to be selfish with my time. I don’t mind giving money to a good charity, but if you ask me to brush elbows with those whom the charity serves, um, I’m a little busy.
Strangers and neighbors can be scary people. Jesus did not say our love was to be limited only to Christian, white, heterosexual, wealthy, attractive people who share our hygienic habits. If we are really going to get involved in the lives of those around us, it may get messy and it may disrupt our comfort.
This, I think, may be God’s plan. In Matthew 25, Jesus told his true followers that when they fed the hungry, clothed the naked and visited those in prison, that they actually did those things for Jesus himself. In today’s passage, we are told that some strangers are actually angels in disguise. I am not sure I completely understand that one, but the point is, that we connect with God when we do for others.
I have found this to be true in my life. I have found that one of the best remedies for my selfishness is to be obedient in an act of love for others. I can pray and pray for change, but authentic change requires obedience to God. We can and should pray, but if we never obey Jesus, then we are still focused on self (even in our prayers).
So, every Sunday morning, I go to the local jail for a bible study. I was terrified when I started. I did not want to go to jail. Those people are scary. Now however, that has become my church and I will not give it up. I love my jail church. It is where I meet with other believers who, like me, are desperate for God’s work in their lives. I started going there to help those in jail. They, of course, have radically affected me. When I obey, leaving behind my selfishness, and loving others, God works his radical change in me.
My faith is of course about my relationship with God. My faith however, was never meant to isolate me from my neighbor. If I have real faith in God, I will be obedient, loving strangers and neighbors, even when it is uncomfortable to do so. It is that obedience that keeps my focus off of self and on God.