The basketball game ended late and as we exited the gym it had turned dark, cold, snowy and windy—a blizzard. Our family of 5 was not dressed for it and we were complete strangers in this small Western Kansas town. A blizzard on the plains is not just nasty it is often deadly. The town had no motels back then and even if it had, we couldn’t have paid for a room. What to do? I have since wondered more than once if the family who extended our family of strangers a “port in the storm” were God’s angels.
At least they must have heard the scriptural admonition that by entertaining strangers some have hosted angels without knowing it. (Heb. 13:2) Abraham did that in Genesis 18 with the 3 men, one of whom may have been the Lord himself. (v. 22) Lot also showed great hospitality to the 2 angels. (Genesis 19)
There are many other examples of hospitality in both the Old and New Testaments. Besides Abraham and Lot, the kindness of David to Mephibosheth, the crippled son of Jonathan and grandson of King Saul is noteworthy. David had him eat at the palace table like one of his own sons and made sure he had servants and received income from the crops of Saul’s former lands. (2Sa. 9:3-12) Another example is the Shunammite woman and her husband who made a room on the roof for Elisha the Prophet. (2Ki. 6:8-11)
In the 1st Century church we see the believers selling their possessions to give to anyone who had need. They also opened their homes to have meals for their fellow Christians. We assume many of these were part of the God-fearing Jews from other nations who made up some of the 3,000 converts on the Day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:5,38)
Consider the citizens of the island of Malta on which the shipwreck of the vessel that carried the Apostle Paul and 275 other souls grounded. They were a remarkable example of hospitality to these total strangers. They took in all these people, fed and cared for them for 3 months and then furnished their needs as they left for Rome.
There are many verses in the New Testament telling us to practice hospitality (1Pe. 4:9) (3 John 8) (Rom. 12:13) and one particular individual who is praised by name by Paul—Gaius (Rom. 16:23) for doing it. In an age where we have so much more of everything, one wonders if we are still willing to practice this commandment?