Chapter 9: Strangers and Prisoners
“If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same (Matthew 5:47, NAS)?”
“Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body…(Hebrews 13:1-3).”
Do you remember the question, “who is my neighbor?” Well, here it is again. Not only are we cautioned to love our brothers (which can often feel virtually impossible), but here we are encouraged to do the same with those outside our brethren. Are we who are extending love to those within the body only doing so at the least possible level, or are we pushing ourselves to go beyond our borders and love those without? We never know to whom we are showing kindness or hostility; we don’t know who may be an angel among us.
And more than that, what if they’re not an angel? What if they’re just some random person who needs kindness, a comforting word, or God’s love expressed to them? We are not to choose whether or not we love our brothers or love our neighbors or strangers or prisoners; we are to love all people at all times, even when admonishing someone.
I love the line in Hebrews 13: “…since you yourselves also are in the body.” Prisoners are a passion of mine because I recognize the undisputed fact I too could be behind physical bars if I had remained married to my first ex-husband. Someone was going to get hurt somewhere along the line! I could have been pushed to do something untoward given the demonic nature in which he operated. Any number of things and circumstances could have led me down the wrong path and caused me to do something prison-worthy. No one knows of what we are capable until a situation arises.
Furthermore, there are people not behind physical bars but behind internal bars, chains, and other barriers. “Remember the prisoners as though in prison with them” states Hebrews 13. We are in the body therefore we could do something stupid at any moment should the flesh get the better of us. In this, we must all be compassionate toward those who most folks deem unsavory. We would be wise to remember how our flesh acted prior to surrendering to Christ. I am painfully aware I must surrender the nature of my flesh daily. Just because I live in a fleshly shell doesn’t mean I need to be driven by it, though it genuinely wants to take the wheel of my life.
Those who are externally or internally imprisoned are so because, somewhere along the line, the flesh got the better of them. Neither you nor I are exempt. Have compassion. Have mercy. Lend prayer. We never know what stranger or prisoner may be an angel in disguise, but don’t be motivated to kindness because of that as if to think, “I don’t want to mess with an angel!” Perceive everyone as someone in need of the same love Christ extended to us in our time of need.