Let mutual love continue.
Do not neglect hospitality, for through it
some have unknowingly entertained angels.
Hebrews 13: 1-2
Most of us are no doubt familiar with the story of Abraham hosting three young men who
turned out to be angels of the Lord—or somehow the Lord Himself, the Trinity. Abraham goes
out of his way to bathe their feet after what he assumes has been a hot, sweaty, dirty day of
walking through the desert. He enlists his wife, Sarah, to help prepare a hearty meal for the
travelers at their own expense. Abraham knows nothing of these men but treats them respectfully
and kindly. As a reward for their hospitality, the Lord reveals that Sarah will bear a son, even
though she is well past her childbearing years (Genesis 18). In other words, Abraham and Sarah
welcomed God into their home as an honored guest; in return, God granted them a son to
welcome into their lives.
What follows next is God’s revelation of the impending destruction of Sodom and
Gomorrah, a tale of hosts grossly mistreating their guests and being annihilated for it (Genesis
19). In the first story, an old man is chosen to be the father of a mighty nation in repayment of his
hospitality; in the second, a whole nation is wiped out for mistreating their neighbors. The
message is clear: how do we welcome those most in need of our assistance? Do we focus
exclusively on our own needs and wants, and even take advantage of people to meet these? Or do we go out of our way, sacrificing ourselves, to welcome strangers and friends in need?
The story of Abraham’s guests is taken up again in the New Testament Letter to the
Hebrews. The author warns the faithful not to “neglect hospitality, for through it some have
unknowingly entertained angels.” He goes on immediately after to advise that we be “mindful of
prisoners” and of the “ill-treated,” that we honor marriage and let go of our “love of money” in
order to “be content with what you have” and rely on God’s providence to provide. “For He has
said, ‘I will not forsake you or abandon you’” (Hebrews 13: 2-5). Overall, we are not to judge,
for we too are in need of saving. We, too, are only human. All of us are in need of a helping
hand, a refuge, a safe place to stay, be it literally or figuratively. All of us need God.
Take time to think, journal, or pray about who needs hospitality in your life. Maybe it’s a friend
or colleague going through a hard time who needs a listening ear. Maybe you’re being called to
volunteer your time or treasure with a local aid group welcoming migrants or the poor. Maybe
you have a Christ room in your house. Could any of these, friends or strangers, be God coming
to you in disguise? How would you treat them if they were?
It's important to recognize that we aren’t God and can’t save everyone! Another question to ask
yourself based on this is in what way do you need hospitality? Be gentle with yourself! We all
need to be received in some way, whether it’s getting up the courage to address your mental
health; acknowledging that you need help learning a new skill or balancing a new situation.
We’re all one body in Christ. None of us is meant to do everything alone. Where in your life do you need an angel to bring the Good News to you?
About the Author
Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Molly Swayze now lives in Chicago, Illinois. She holds degrees in English and French and a Master’s in Christian Spirituality from Fordham. Her Master’s Thesis was on Dorothy Day and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. She enjoys spinning yarn, knitting, reading, writing letters, cooking, and camping.
Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0e/Aert_de_Gelder_009.jpg, public domain.