We’re entering the home stretch now—the last chapter of Hebrews. If it seems like I’ve been slowing down our hike, it’s not because I’m getting tired… I just don’t want the hike to end!
On the actual mountain where I do my two-hour hikes, deep snow covers the summit today. It’s time to change from my shorts to leggings and snow boots! But snow never stops me; I hike my favorite route year-round, even if I have to break the snowy trails myself. (Not many folks hike up there, and I’m often first to arrive after a big snowfall.) I hope you also have a favorite place to walk, hike, run, bike, or otherwise inhale the great outdoors and keep up with your cardio and mental health.
In this final chapter, the Hebrew writer packs a lot of one-sentence commands and admonitions, easy to fly over if we don’t slow down and ponder them. The first five are all about relationships: the acid test of our faith. Today we’ll explore two.
- Keep on loving each other as brothers. (Heb.13:1)
I have four brothers (one who died two years ago), so I know about brotherly love. Here’s the thing. Each of my brothers is different, even if they share a family resemblance. I’ve worked at building an adult relationship with each of them, and love them dearly. But would we naturally be friends if we weren’t related? Perhaps—but not without the effort we’ve made to stay connected and open with each other, even when we don’t see eye to eye or share much in common but the same parents. Our lifestyles are different, our hobbies and interests are different, and the churches where we choose to worship (or not) are different. But because we are siblings, we reach out across the miles and make every effort to see each other whenever we can. I plan on having each of them—and their families—in my life till death calls our number. There’s no question that I’d ever abandon or give up on them, whatever may come. We belong to each other.
This needs to be our conviction and attitude towards our brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s exciting when we find kindred spirits among the fellowship, individuals who love the same things, speak ‘our ‘ language, laugh at the same jokes, share in some ineffable chemistry, the chemistry of besties. But we sin against the Body of Christ when we limit our love and attention to those we are naturally drawn to. Perhaps if we viewed our Christian relationships in the way I view my sibling relationships, we’d put more thought and effort into loving and bonding with those who are not like us.
I’ve been as guilty as anyone of choosing who I love and want to spend time with, while overlooking others. There was a time in my life when God ‘matched’ me with sisters in Christ who I didn’t naturally click with, and I learned—thankfully—that you can learn to love and enjoy almost anyone when you commit to getting to know them. That doesn’t happen so much now, in the small fellowship I’m a part of, where we don’t have designated discipleship partners and mentoring relationships. But I want to urge us—you and me—to examine the relationships we have in Christ, and compare our love, commitment, and acceptance to what we—hopefully– extend to our family members.
How do you fare? Could you do better? (And could you be doing better with your family members, too?)
- Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. (Heb.13:2)
What a cosmic concept! Entertaining ANGELS without knowing it?
I know a thing or two about hospitality, too. In the almost-40 years Henry and I have been married, we’ve had unrelated people living in our home for over 30 of them. Most of them were younger than us, and needed some kind of help and support. Some of them paid rent, but some didn’t. Most became part of our lives and hearts in indelible ways.
The first was a teen named Pina, who crashed into our young married life when the ink was still drying on our marriage certificate. She used to write love poems for us, inviting herself into our bedroom to read them aloud. One afternoon when we were out, she unshelved all of Henry’s massive, perfectly organized library, and rearranged the whole collection by color and size. We called her our ‘Abominable House Pet’, and even in our frequent exasperation, we adored her.
Some of our more recent house guests arrived en masse from Mexico several summers ago. On the day they landed in Canada, Henry stopped to offer two couples a ride as they tromped with their backpacks from a nearby orchard: the cherries weren’t ready, and there was no room at the inn. He brought them home for lunch and a shower; as the hot day ended, we invited them to stay the night. One night turned into a semi-permanent stay. Two weeks later, Henry spotted two more couples from Mexico, walking the five-mile hike to the nearest grocery store, and brought them home, too. The initial invitation was for showers and a shared dinner. Our house is not big—it’s a modest 1960s bungalow—but we’d converted our unfinished basement into a 45’ X 12’ carpeted room, which comfortably housed most of our Hispanic angels if we slept two in the spare bedroom. The overnight stays stretched to five months, when the harvest ended. Several of their friends stayed with us in following summers. They were a blessing and a joy, even if some of our neighbors were upset by the stream of foreign, unfamiliar faces coming in and out of our house—but that’s another story.
Even in the periods where we haven’t had house guests and boarders, we’ve usually hosted lots of dinners and gatherings for new friends and strangers. I’m sharing this, not to boast, but to remind myself of how happy and full those times were. As Christians, we’re made to offer hospitality, in whatever form we can, and the act of sharing our lives and belongings opens our hearts wider to God’s immeasurable love.
In these days of pandemic caution, we haven’t had guests in our home for a while. We share our home with three cats and no other humans. In some ways, it’s a welcome break to have the house to ourselves—conducive to writing, wearing pajamas all day if I don’t have to work, and spending more couple time than we ever have. But we consider it a season, not a permanent lifestyle change. And I don’t want to have a closed heart to whichever ‘angel’ God sends next to our door.
Is practicing hospitality part of your lifestyle, your Christian DNA? It should be! The open heart of Jesus, receptive to every stripe and color of humanity, must be reflected in our hearts and lives. What are the barriers for you? What are the possible blessings?
Categories: Hiking in Hebrews