Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
— Hebrews 13:1-2
This text, no doubt inspired by the Old Testament story of Abraham entertaining the three strangers who turn out to be messengers of God,1 reminds me how important it is to reach out to people, especially those new to a group or situation, and also to be civil and courteous to those arriving at our door, for whatever reason. The truth is we know almost nothing about people we have just met, despite the many assumptions of knowing we might make based on appearance, clothing, career/job title or other surface representations of self. Actually talking with someone, approaching them with hospitality and curiosity opens up all kinds of friendship possibilities. In one way or another there is something to be learned from every person we meet. There are the occasional encounters where it really does feel like we've met an angel, someone who lifts us in some way, opens our eyes to new ways of seeing, or simply holds us with compassion and love. But even in the absence of such angelic spirit each one of us has "that of God" within, and by entertaining strangers we get to see that part of a person perhaps previously hidden.
The spirit of these two verses of Hebrews were adopted by early Quakers in the form expressed by George Fox:
"Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone." 2
It is easy to ignore strangers, to shy away, to 'mind your own business' but when we respond in this way we really don't know what we might be missing. It takes effort to reach out, and we don't always have spare capacity to welcome new people into our lives, but it might be important to do our best, and to know when such shying away is based on fear or self-care. If the former, let us walk through it.
1 Genesis 18:1-8
2 George Fox, 1656