Strangers Among Us

“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 6:2Matthew 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.)

On October 25, 2019, I published a blog post titled, The Other Side,” on this blog that dealt with the topic of angels, and it included a four-part series on angels by Greg Laurie, senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, published on Harvest.org. You can read that series of articles at this link. I published that blog post a few days before Halloween since the emphasis placed on Halloween usually centers around the dark side of the spiritual world.

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 Saidstating 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:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

The Other Side

“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 Testament
Halloween is quickly approaching in a few days on October 31st, and the entire month of October is when several TV stations announce “31 days of Halloween” movies, and new spooky movies show up at the theaters. Of course, on Halloween children dress up in costumes and go door-to-door trick or treating just as I did when I was a kid. My mom always had to ration out the goodies so I didn’t eat too many sweets at any one time. Spooks and goblins and Harry Potter type stuff, along with The Addams Family who first showed up in 1991 and they are still quite popular today, proliferate during this month. However, when I woke up this morning I got to thinking about “the other side” of the spirit world–Angels–as they appear in the Bible many times including their association with us human beings. In fact, Hebrews 13:2 states:

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

Imagine entertaining an angel and not even knowing it. Obviously, according to this Bible verse they are able to take on human form. Most likely if we think of angels at all it is sort of like this picture as being “bright, glowing, ethereal, winged messengers or guardians” (quote source here). However, the angels of the Bible are described as follows:

Superhuman or heavenly being who serves as God’s messenger. Both the Hebrew  malak and the Greek angelos indicate that these beings also act decisively in fulfilling God’s will in the world. But these two terms also apply to human beings as messengers (1 Kings 19:2 ; Hag 1:13 ; Luke 7:24 ). “Angels” are mentioned almost three hundred times in Scripture, and are only noticeably absent from books such as Ruth, Nehemiah, Esther, the letters of John, and James.

From the beginning, angels were part of the divine hierarchy. They were created beings (Psalms 148:2 Psalms 148:5), and were exuberant witnesses when God brought the world into being (Job 38:7). By nature they were spiritual entities, and thus not subject to the limitations of human flesh. Although holy, angels could sometimes behave foolishly (Job 4:18), and even prove to be untrustworthy (Job 15:15). Probably these qualities led to the “fall” of some angels, including Satan, but the Bible contains no description of that event [Note: see “The Devil” on History.com at this link]. When angels appeared in human society they resembled normal males (Genesis 18:2 Genesis 18:16 ; Ezek 9:2), and never came dressed as women. (A full explanation including some Old Testament and New Testament examples along with the quote source above is located here.)

In a four-part series on angels by Greg Laurie, senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, published on Harvest.org, he states the following:

INTRODUCTION

Angels have been the featured subject of national news magazines, countless books, many movies, and several television shows. They have even surfaced on the Internet. You can find them on postcards, T-shirts, calendars, and sunglasses. In fact, entire seminars, newsletters, and boutiques have been devoted to these beings. There’s no doubt about it, America is experiencing a wave of angel-mania.

Polls have shown that most Americans do believe angels exist. Many people also believe that they have personal guardian angels, or that they have felt an angelic presence at some time. Even most teenagers say they believe there are angels.

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT ANGELS

Our word “angel” comes from the Greek word meaning “messenger.” Angels have superhuman intelligence and powers. People today often describe angels as kind, non-judgmental, wise, and loving beings. But do they take into account that there are also fallen angels who may not be so nonthreatening and loving? In many cases, the answer is no. Let’s examine what the Bible teaches us about these angelic beings.

Angels are beings created by God

“For by Him all things were created that are in Heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16).

Angels generally operate undercover

They are God’s secret agents, not seeking to draw attention to themselves, but to do God’s bidding. One of the reasons we may not be personally aware of angels in our life is because they are doing their job properly. The Bible cites a limited number of instances when God has given people a glimpse of these beings at work.

Angels have a special work and ministry in the lives of Christians

Angels are all around us, taking care of us and ministering to us even when we are not aware of their presence. “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14). Angels are sent by God to deliver us from our troubles. “The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them” (Psalm 34:7). God also sends angels to bring His messages to guide us in our own ministry (Acts 8:26).

Angels are intelligent, powerful, and invisible spirit beings

Angels are not visible to us, with the exception of those occasions when God sends them on a special mission or clothes them in human form (see Hebrews 13:2). The descriptions of angels in Scripture are certainly awe-inspiring. If we could remove the veil that blocks our view of the unseen spiritual world, we would see that there are angels all around us. That happened to the servant of Elisha the prophet in the Old Testament. Seeing his servant’s fearfulness of the vast enemy army surrounding their city, Elisha prayed that God would open his servant’s eyes to see the invisible hosts protecting them. “Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17).

Angels do not seek our worship

If an angel were to appear to us right now, we might be tempted to worship it. This happened to the apostle John. “Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God” (Revelation 22:8–9). The angel would not accept John’s worship.

There are not only holy angels, but also unholy ones (fallen angels or demons). If an awe-inspiring angel were to appear to us right now, we would be inclined to believe just about anything he said—even if it were a different gospel! That is why Scripture tells us to test any so-called angel’s message with what we find in God’s Word. “But even if we, or an angel from Heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).

Angels are numerous

The world of angels is mysterious and, to a large degree, unknown to us. The Bible does not precisely say how many angels exist. It was a “multitude” of the heavenly host that told the shepherds of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:13). Daniel 7:10 tells us, “A thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him.” That would mean there are more than 100 million angels—a number almost too vast to imagine. Perhaps that is why Job asks, “Can His forces be numbered?” (Job 25:3 NIV).

THE ORGANIZATION OF ANGELS

Let’s consider some of the distinctions in the angelic realm. In the Bible, we are given the names of two angels in particular: Michael the archangel and Gabriel (there are three named angels, if you want to count Lucifer, who once was a high-ranking angel in God’s service, but is now in rebellion against God, and is now called Satan). The Bible also mentions the cherubim and the seraphim.

Michael, the Archangel

The term “archangel” occurs just twice in the New Testament (1 Thessalonians 4:16 and Jude 1:9). In both instances, it is used in the singular and is preceded by the definite article “the.” This would indicate that there is only one archangel. It would appear that Michael is the top-ranking angel in God’s heavenly host. He will play a special role in the rapture of the church:

“For the Lord Himself will descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17)

As powerful as Michael is, he does have his limitations—as well as a healthy respect for his adversary, Lucifer. “Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” (Jude 1:9). Ultimately, however, Scripture says that Michael and the angels will prevail over Satan and cast him out of Heaven forever (see Revelation 12:7–9).

Gabriel

This high-ranking angel brought special messages to God’s people.

    • He appeared to Daniel and revealed the future to him (Daniel 8:16; 9:21).
    • He appeared to Zacharias regarding the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:19).
    • He appeared to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus (Luke 1:26–38).

The Cherubim

The Bible depicts these beings as powerful and majestic angelic creatures, servants of God, which surround God’s throne (see Ezekiel 1:5–14; Psalm 99:1). They appear as winged human-animal forms (Revelation 4:6–8). God sent them to guard Eden after the expulsion of Adam and Eve: “So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24).

The Seraphim

These angelic beings seem to hold a special position of worshiping and praising God. The prophet Isaiah vividly describes them in his vision of God:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory! (Isaiah 6:1–3).

ANGELS IN ACTION

Angels have many duties to carry out for God. They protect, guide, encourage, and assist people. They bring messages from God. They interpret God’s Word and carry out God’s will for His people. They sometimes punish God’s enemies. Here are some examples in Scripture of how angels work.

Angels in the lions’ den

One of the most dramatic and well-known stories about angels in Scripture is the story of Daniel in the lions’ den (see Daniel 6:16–22). The aged prophet found himself in this dilemma because God had raised him up to a position of honor in the kingdom of Darius. His enemies scrutinized his every move, but they could find no inconsistency in his life. So they baited a trap. They had the king unwittingly sign a decree that no one could pray to any god but him. Daniel prayed to the true God, as his enemies expected, and his punishment was to be thrown into a den of hungry lions. Just when it appeared that all was lost, God dispatched one or more of His angels to deliver him by shutting the mouths of the lions.

Angelic activity in Daniel’s prayer

Daniel chapter 10 gives us a rare glimpse into what happens behind the scenes when we pray. In that story, Daniel’s prayer is heard in Heaven, and an angel is dispatched with a special message for Daniel. The angel encountered opposing forces, and he became engaged in supernatural combat, delaying the message for 21 days! Michael, the archangel, was finally dispatched to help the other angel, who then gave the message to Daniel. This incident makes it clear that delays in God’s answering of our prayers are not necessarily denials.

The angel and the donkey

In Numbers chapter 22, we read the story of Balaam, who was asked by the king of Moab to place a curse on the Israelites. When Balaam began his journey to the king, his donkey saw an angel standing in their path and refused to go on. After several beatings from Balaam, God enabled the donkey to talk and protest Balaam’s beatings. At that point, the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes to see the angel. The angel then explained that he had come to stop Balaam because he was headed for destruction.

ANGELS IN OUR LIVES

We probably will never know how many times angels have delivered us, gotten us out of tight situations, protected us from harm, or even directly spoken to us. Does that mean that each of us has a guardian angel? Matthew 18:10 seems to indicate that possibility: “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in Heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in Heaven” (Matthew 18:10).

God dispatched an angel to personally escort Peter from prison in response to the prayers of believers (Acts 12:5–11). Yet, it is unclear whether we actually have personal guardian angels. One thing is certain: God promises His protection to those who closely follow Him. In Psalm 91:1, God promises, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).

The Hebrew word used for dwell literally means “in quiet and resting; enduring and remaining with consistency.The phrase shall abide literally means “to stay overnight,” much like someone being offered the protection and comfort of home. When we follow this condition, we are also promised angelic protection: “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11).

For our part, we are to stay as close to Jesus as possible. To “abide under the shadow of the Almighty” would indicate extreme closeness. Have you ever tried to walk in someone’s shadow? You have to stay very close.

We are not to test the Lord, but to trust the Lord. If we do our part, God will do His. His promise of angelic protection and guidance stands. (Quote source: Article starts here and each section can be located by clicking on the link in the lower right hand corner at this link.)

This gives us a view from “the other side” this Halloween season which is usually filled with ghosts and goblins and witches riding brooms. There are fallen angelsbriefly mentioned above that fit right in with the Halloween theme, but there are many, many innumerable angels still on God’s side.

I’ll end this blog post with this verse from Psalm 34:7The angel of the Lord…

Encamps around . . .

Those who fear him . . .

And he delivers them . . . .

YouTube Video: “Angels” by Amy Grant:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here