“Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (Heb 13:1-3)
In Hebrews 12, the author gives us some advice on how we should keep our faith.
We should throw off sin and everything that hinders us and run the race of faith with perseverance. We should fix our eyes on Jesus, who is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. We should strengthen our feeble arms and weak knees.
We should see to it that we don’t fall short of the grace of God by letting the bitter root grow in us. We should also make sure that we don’t become godless like Esau who despised his spiritual inheritance and sold it for a single meal. We can only do these things when we’re standing firm with Jesus Christ, our Lord, on the kingdom of God that can’t be shaken.
How to Live by Faith
Now, In Hebrews 13, the author urges the readers to live out their faith in practical ways. Faith that isn’t lived out can’t be considered true faith.
It’s good for us to remember what James said.
“Faith without deeds is useless… faith without deeds is dead” (Jms 2:20, 26)
Believing in something can’t be separated from how we live. If we truly know the truth of Jesus Christ, there must be actual changes in our lives accordingly. In other words, believing in Jesus essentially compel all believers to live out their faith in accordance with his great example of love and his teachings.
So, what are some practical ways we can live out our faith?
1) Keep on Loving One Another
First, the author of Hebrews encourages us to “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters” (Heb 13:1)
Here, brothers and sisters refers to believers that belong to God’s family through Jesus. One of the amazing things we gain when we believe in Jesus is a new spiritual family.
Paul said in Ephesians chapter 2,
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” (Eph 2:19)
So, in Jesus Christ, we belong to one family of God. And if we truly believe this, we are to love one another as Jesus loves us. Our Father’s love was most clearly demonstrated on the cross, and we should reflect His love by taking care of one another in the church community. That’s the way Jesus commands us to show that we’re his disciples.
While washing his disciple’s feet during the last supper, Jesus said,
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Jn 13:34-35)
But, what’s more important than deciding to love our brothers and sisters in Christ is continuing to love them. These may sound like the same thing, but they are not. In fact, the latter is much harder than the former.
Many couples get divorced. They once loved each other to the point that they decided to be fully committed to one another for the rest of their lives, but they eventually gave up on each other. So, what really matters is not to decide to love one another, but to continue to be devoted to doing so.
We must love our brothers and sisters continuously. Our love should always be expressed in how we treat one another. That’s how we live out our faith and testify to Jesus’ love through our lives.
2) Show Hospitality to Strangers
Second, the author encourages us not to “forget to show hospitality to strangers” (Heb 13:2).
Here, loving one another in God’s family extends to loving strangers. Hospitality was an important value in both Judaism and Christianity. In fact, it was one of the reasons the gospel of Jesus Christ spread so quickly and widely despite hardships and difficulties. You might say that early Christianity spread through a culture of hospitality to strangers.
Like today, there were many evangelists at that time who committed their lives to proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ all around the world. Paul was one of them. We can’t deny his great influence on early Christianity, but we should also remember other unnamed disciples who were fully committed to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Because of suffering and persecution, it was very hard for them to afford their traveling expenses. So, hospitality played a crucial role in early Christianity.
To show the importance of hospitality, the author uses Abraham as an example. He said, “By so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Heb 13:2)
In Genesis 18, we read about how Abraham welcomed strangers and was blessed by them. One day, Abraham saw three men standing near his tent. When he saw them, he immediately went out to meet them and welcomed them. He gave them water to wash their feet, food to eat, and a place to rest. By doing so, he showed hospitality to angels without knowing that they were angels, and the Lord promised him a son.
This story likely had a significant effect on Jewish culture. To follow Abraham’s example by showing hospitality to strangers was an essential tradition in Judaism.
This culture continued into Christianity. To welcome strangers and show hospitality to them has great value in Christianity as well. But, Christian hospitality is different from that of Jewish tradition in the way we see strangers and treat them.
Jesus said in Matthew 25,
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Mt 25:40)
Here, the brothers and sisters of Jesus refer to the poor, the thirsty, strangers, the sick, those who need clothes, and those who are in prison. Jesus said that those who look after these kinds of people would be blessed and inherit the kingdom of God prepared for them.
What we do for those in need and those who are considered marginalized represents what we do for Jesus. We should be able to see others as God’s beloved children created in his image and treat them the way we would treat Jesus.
So, to show hospitality to strangers is very closely related to loving Jesus. In fact, we can’t truly love Jesus if we have no pity or interest in others in need. Jesus wants us to love and serve others the way he loved and served us. And this deep level of love requires us to lay down everything just as Jesus did for us.
1 John 3:16 says,
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1Jn 3:16)
To truly love others and show hospitality, we should first remember how Jesus loved us and what he sacrificed to save us. He poured out his unconditional love on us when we didn’t deserve it, and we should also reflect his love by loving and showing hospitality to others.
3) Continue to Remember Those in Prison
Third, the author urges us to “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (Heb 13:3)
Here, the recipients of our love expands from ‘brothers and sisters’ to ‘strangers’ to those who are in prison and mistreated. At that time, people in prison were often mistreated and needed their families or friends to provide them with clothes and food. If they had no one to help them, they would starve to death in prison.
This verse is likely referring to Christians who were put in prison because of their faith. The readers were asked to remember them and empathize with them to the point of identifying with them. It means that we should put ourselves in their shoes and think about what they would need in prison.
That level of actively remembering those who are in prison and mistreated will lead us to come up with practical ways to help them.
Following the Example of Jesus’ Love
So, in Hebrews 13:1-3, the author urges us to continue to love one another as God’s family, show hospitality to strangers, and remember those who are in prison and mistreated and actually help them. None of these are easy to do.
We may love one another, but it’s hard to continue to love each other. We may show hospitality to those we know and get along with, but it’s hard to do so with strangers. We may think about those in prison, but it’s hard to remember them to the point of identifying with them.
But the good news is that Jesus doesn’t just command us to love others. He himself lived as the perfect example of love so that we can follow in his steps. Jesus allows us to experience the true meaning of love through his sacrifice and pours out his love into our hearts so that we can love others the way he loved us. He opens our eyes and allows us to see others through his perspective so that we can see his image in those around us and serve them.
We don’t have the power within us to continuously love others. But Jesus loved us to the end. As John 13:1 says,
“Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (Jn 13:1)
In a time when Jewish people despised Samaritans and avoided crossing through their land, Jesus entered Samaria and met and talked to a woman whom even other Samaritans didn’t associate with.
The religious leaders of that day disdained sinners and tax collectors, but Jesus went to their houses and ate with them.
Mark 2:16-17 says,
“When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mk 2:16-17)
Jesus never avoided people who came to him. He welcomed everyone. Jesus had compassion on them, healed them, and fed them. He didn’t only say good teachings, but also helped them in practical ways.
Not only that, Jesus laid down his life on the cross and shed his precious blood to save us from our sin even when we were sinners and God’s enemies. By doing so, he set us free from the spiritual prison of condemnation and death.
That’s the greatest example of love Jesus shows us through his life that we should follow. Even though we don’t have the power within us to love others, we can still love not only our brothers and sisters but also strangers and those in need if we remain in him and follow his steps.
That’s how we should live out our faith. Again, our belief must manifest itself through our acts of love. And we can’t love others unless we’re filled with Jesus’ love for us.