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

There is more than one Old Testament story where someone was visited by angels in the custom of showing hospitality to strangers. While that is hardly a motive for taking someone out for coffee, you will often be surprised at how God’s message can be delivered personally to you through showing kindness and concern for complete strangers.

It may not be a direct ‘thus saith the Lord’, but if you are paying attention to others you may have the Holy Spirit whisper something deep into your heart. Have you ever experienced something profound in the company of someone you just met?

The Greek word Angelos from which we get the word angel means messenger. What message will be imparted to you as you learn to show hospitality and inclusion to strangers and foreigners? Every day we can be in the company of messengers.

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

We entertain angels and we go visit prisoners. One is close at hand (strangers) and the other is less accessible. It takes work to go to the prison and visit someone.

Why was it so important to show hospitality and especially empathy for the thugs in the slammer?

Prisoners had to depend on those outside for food beyond basic prison rations, for clothing and other items; guards sometimes required bribes even to grant this much access. Prisons detained people until trial or execution, but prisoners could remain in custody for long periods of time until trial. By the second century, Christians were known for their care for the imprisoned.[1]

It is still common in parts of Latin America for prisoners to depend on outside supporters to bring food and other basic necessities. Woe to the one who has no one to come visit them. I knew an ex-offender from Amherstburg involved in drug trafficking.  He had this very experience in a Panama jail. Fortunately he was expedited back to a Canadian prison where he could have basic nutrition and healthcare while waiting out his sentence.

Being ripped off, tortured and imprisoned was a common experience for many in the early church. The call for empathy reminds us that we can look down on or soon forget those who cannot come to us. Jesus is renewing our minds to erase the saying, ‘Out of sight is out of mind.’

True hospitality, even in our time is the odd coupling of angels and prisoners. Hospitality requires you to make the first move. If no one has invited you into their coffee circle, look around and you will find someone else that is alone. You be the one to start a new coffee circle. And when there are two of you, look for a third that needs inclusion.

[1] NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible