“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” –The author of the Hebrews (13:2) in the New TestamentI read an interesting devotion this morning (January 6, 2020) in Our Daily Bread titled, “Mysterious Helpers,” by Sheridan Voysey, writer, speaker and broadcaster in the United Kingdom. Here is that devotion:
Louise suffers from muscular dystrophy. While trying to exit a train station one day, she found herself facing a large flight of stairs without an elevator or escalator. On the verge of tears, Louise saw a man suddenly appear, pick up her bag, and gently help her up the stairs. When she turned to thank him, he was gone.
Michael was late for a meeting. Already stressed from a relationship breakdown, he started battling London’s traffic only to get a flat tire. As he stood helplessly in the rain, a man stepped out of the crowd, opened the boot (trunk), jacked up the car, and changed the wheel. When Michael turned to thank him, he was gone.
Who were these mysterious helpers? Kind strangers, or something more?
The popular image we have of angels as radiant or winged creatures is only half true. While some appear this way (Isaiah 6:2; Matthew 28:3), others come with dusty feet, ready for a meal (Genesis 18:1–5) and are easily mistaken for everyday people (Judges 13:16). The writer of Hebrews says that by showing hospitality to strangers, we can entertain angels without realizing it (13:2).
We don’t know if Louise and Michael’s helpers were angels. But according to Scripture, they could have been. Angels are at work right now, helping God’s people (Hebrews 1:14). And they can appear as ordinary as a person on the street. (Quote source here.)
Angels are not a topic I usually deal with on my blog posts as I leave that topic to others with more knowledge about them from a Biblical perspective. However, we all run into strangers every day of our lives (and we, ourselves, are strangers to others that we pass by) when we are “out and about” doing whatever it is we do on any given day, and this is what I want us to give consideration to in this blog post.
The question for this blog post is this–How do we treat the strangers that cross our paths at any given point in time? Much of the time it depends on the situation, and most strangers we just pass by quickly as we are walking down the street or down an aisle in a store, or walking through crowds in malls and elsewhere, or when we are driving down the road or highway. Dare I say that it probably never crosses our minds that we might be entertaining an angel in the midst of all of those strangers that cross our paths. Well, if one takes Bible verses seriously, Hebrews 13:2 clearly states that it does happen to some of us.
Whether or not we are do actually cross paths occasionally with an angel unaware, it is important to consider how we treat the strangers among us. In answer to a question on Quora.com asking, “Does It Matter How We Treat Strangers? Why?” here are a few of the answers they received:
Morgan Oxley, Certified Hypnotist from National Guild of Hypnotists, responded:
Here’s a great quote: “You can tell a lot about a person by how they treat someone who can do absolutely nothing for them.”
In the past, human beings have been indifferent, afraid and even cruel to strangers. In the modern world, we’re confronted by strangers all the time.
As some of the other good responses to this question have pointed out, how you treat someone has a lasting impact on them. If you’re kind, it lifts them. If you’re unkind, it drags them down.
Humans are fundamentally emotional creatures, and emotional contagion exists. If you treat someone poorly, they’re far more likely to let it “roll down hill” with the next person they meet.
Being kind to strangers, even a quick hello and a smile makes people feel connected and accepted and makes it far more likely that they’ll be kind to the next person that they meet.
Isn’t this the world we want to live in?
You live in a world full of strangers. It’s no longer optional to be kind to people you don’t know. It’s becoming an imperative.
William Bates, writer, historian, and reflector on wisdom, responded:
According to the fairy story, a stranger came to town and agreed a price with the council for getting rid of their plague of rats. He kept his side of the bargain but the townspeople refused to pay him. As he walked away from the town, playing his pipes, all the children followed him and entered a hill, never to be seen again.
In other fairy stories a stranger is eventually shown to be a person who has power to do great good to those who treat them well, even though they initially appeared as poor or very old. The message is clear: treat strangers well because, in spite of their appearance, they may have power to hurt or enrich you. While such stories relate to people’s fear of unknown and initially mysterious travelers, they also speak to a deep rooted obligation in traditional societies to offer hospitality to strangers.
Jesus takes a rather different approach to strangers whom he views as having a temporary need for food and shelter. Jesus identifies himself with such people and says of those who enter his heavenly kingdom, ‘I was a stranger and you invited me in’ (Matthew 25:34-36).
In the first century some teachers of Christianity traveled from church to church and the apostles encouraged believers to show these strangers hospitality. Some unscrupulous people, who could spin a good yarn but did not really follow Jesus, took advantage of churches. In 2 John 7-11 believers are warned, “Do not take them into your house or welcome them”. While this does not take away from the teaching of Jesus, it is a reminder of the need to try and discern the genuine from the deceitful, even if we try to give a stranger the benefit of any doubt.
In today’s world this is live issue globally as well as at a more local level. Children are rightly warned to be wary of strangers who might be grooming them prior to some kind of abuse. Yet even when this is taken into account, the truth is that some time I may be in an unfamiliar country where I know no one at all. On the day when I find myself in the position of being a stranger, I will really appreciate being shown some kindness and hospitality. If that is how I would wish to be treated in those circumstances, it makes sense to build the kind of world in which strangers are treated with fairness and compassion.
Ganesh Thayagarajan, “your friendly, over-the-top amateur writer,” responded:
I work as a cashier at a supermarket. I meet strangers every single day. And let me tell you, it is important to treat these random people with proper respect.
I may not know them, and they most certainly do not know me, but we are all living our lives. We have our struggles, our peace, but what we choose to let out when we interact may make or break someone else’s mood completely.
I’ve had people treat me like garbage. My colleague was racially abused for making a minor mistake. Subsequently, I have caused upsets for these strangers with my mistakes. And sometimes they get angry when something is out of my control.
Sure, we don’t even know one another! What difference does it make?
A whole lot.
We may not know one another, but there is still a need for common respect for each other. Despite what we may be facing, it isn’t right for us to treat others we, let alone don’t even know, like they are nothing.
We all are living life. Though we may be strangers, there is still a need to treat each other properly. It is how we can live peacefully.
Keep that in mind when you want to piss a stranger off.
Mike Rommel, three years of Bible school, 25+ years in the working world, responded:
Yes, of course it does. Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself, then he was asked, “well who is my neighbor?” That is where you get the parable of the Good Samaritan. Go find it and read it for yourself starting at Luke 10:30. Then there is this verse….Hebrews 13:1 “Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.” Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.”
Barke Said, stating this is what worked for me, responded:
Yes it does matter, so so much.
Treating people defines who we are. You don’t have to know someone for you to treat them nicely. Treat everyone nicely regardless of who they are and whether you know them or not. Because you never know that you may mistreat a stranger who will turn out to be your job interviewer, future boss or a distant relative. So you need to be cautious. And I don’t see any harm in treating strangers nicely however, there is a lot of risk and maybe harm in mistreating them. (Quote source here.)
Those few quotes should get us thinking about how we treat others we come into contact with on any given day. And, it’s not too late to make a new resolution for this new year to make an effort to treat others as we would want to be treated, especially the strangers in our midst (and maybe family members, too).
I’ll end this post with two statements Jesus made in Matthew 7:12—“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets,” and in Luke 6:31…
Do to others . . .
As you would have them . . .
Do to you . . . .
YouTube Video: “Speak Life” by TobyMac: