To me, Hebrews is just like a military book: you have to get going, there is no time to waste. Hebrews 13 is the last chapter of Hebrews. In it are the instructions on how we should live: as brothers and sisters in Christ — the fellowship we have should be bound by love. How our marriage should look like as Christians, the use of money and to persevere in our spiritual walk.
Love and Fellowship (vv1-6)
The Hebrews to whom this letter was written for had no doubt been rejected by their families and friends for being followers of Jesus Christ. But the love that Christians shared was different because it was from God and empowered by God. The love of God had enabled them to love one another.
“Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters” (verse 1). That is what makes us different from social clubs and other hobby groups. We are a family in Christ. There should be no distinctions or discriminations.
- “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10)
- “Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.” (1 Thess 4:9)
- “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” (1 Peter 1:22)
Love and Hospitality (v 2)
Where there is Christian love, there is hospitality. Henri Nouwen, a Dutch Catholic priest, theologian and writer, wrote:
“Hospitality means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. . . . The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness, not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free; free to sing their own songs, speak their own languages, dance their own dances; free also to leave and follow their own vocations. Hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adore the lifestyle of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his own.”
In short, hospitality is the free and safe space for strangers to enter and discover the meaning of life and purposes.
Hospitality is an important ministry in the early church. Because of persecution, many believers were kicked out of their homes by their families. Not only that, there were traveling ministers who needed places to stay (3 John 5-8). If you remember, the story of prophet Elisha in the Old Testament. He often traveled from place to place. A Shunammite woman would prepare a room for him to rest when he was passing by. Because of their hospitality, her husband and her were blessed with a son.
How should we show hospitality to strangers in our church and strangers in our lives? In this pandemic, all the more we need to extend our warmth to people who need it. It has been a rough year. All the more we need to show that we care. May you be God’s agents of love and hope this Christmas season.
It is interesting because if we show hospitality, we are entertaining angels. Verse 2 says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it”.
In Genesis 18, Abraham welcomed strangers and gave them food to eat. He was actually entertaining Jesus and His two angels. It was only later that he realised it was Jesus and his angels. You and I may not be entertaining angels in disguise but each guest that we welcome are agents of blessings to us. May we too, be refreshed when we show hospitality to others.
When we show hospitality, let us not forget those Christians who are persecuted.
Verse 3 reminds us, “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.”
Let us not get so comfortable with our lives that we forget our brothers and sisters in Christ who are persecuted for the Gospel. I have seminary classmates who were ministering in places where they were beaten and put to jail because they were Christians and were proclaiming the Good News. Remembering and praying for Christians who are persecuted is one way to show that we care as the Body of Christ. It is also pleasing to the Lord.
Love in the Christian Home (v4)
The home is the ground where we practice love (Hebrews 13:4). A Christian home is made up of a Christian marriage. There is no place for the marriage bed for a third person. As Christians, the marriage bed is only for the married couple. God is the judge and any misconducts will be judged by Him.
King David committed adultery. When he repented, God forgave him but he still had the bear the consequences of his adultery.
The media, the movies that we watch, the songs that we listen to, have catchy tunes but most of them promote pre-marital sex. It seems everyone is doing it. It seems right but it is not right in God’s eyes. Not that God is old fashioned but God was the one who designed sex. And He meant for it as a wonderful gift for the husband and the wife. If we remember we are children of God, we will not want to do it. It is not for entertainment or for experiment as the media is portraying it. Let us ask for God’s strength and wisdom to stay away from these activities that are not beneficial for us and will do damage to our souls.
Love the Lord (verse 5)
Most of the pastors entered into the ministry not because of money or its benefits but because we are curtained that God has called us into serving Him full time. And none of us are in lack or in want. God’s blessings are beyond our imaginations.
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (v5)
The love of God helps us to use our money wisely. Jesus also reminds us not to love money so much that we forsake our own souls.
There is a quote that John Wesley said but it had been under debate because he might not have said it. It is “Earn all you can, save all you can and give all you can”. It has been at the back of my mind all these years. Nonetheless, we can learn from it.
“Earn all you can.” We work diligently through participating in God’s healing and creative work in the world. We don’t exploit other people or get income from the sufferings of others but earn all that we can in a righteous way.
“Save all you can.” Wesley supposedly was talking about a simplified lifestyle, a warning against extravagance, and self-gratification. May be in this pandemic, we realise what we really need in life. We are just grateful to be alive and what we need is actually the basic things in life. It is a good time to really think about what we really need and what makes our life meaningful.
“Give all you can.” For Wesley, giving is rooted in the very nature and activity of God, whose nature is love, which is the emptying of oneself on behalf of others, the giving of life, abundant and full life. When we love God, we will give to others, especially those in need.
Love your leaders (v 7)
“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (v 7).
The leaders are to give an account before God someday. Therefore, we are to respect and honour them. Leaders are humans after all. They make mistakes too. It is important to cover them with our prayers so that they will make wise and godly decisions in their daily lives.
The heart of Hebrews is to pursue holiness. May you continue to love one another, be faithful in your marriage, love God and find contentment in Him and honour your leaders.