Theological Thursdays: Part 3 Nov. 2nd

Welcome back!

Let’s dive right on in.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. -Hebrews 13:2

In my regular readings, I stumbled upon this beaut. I have probably read it before, honestly, but it has never stood out to me before. ((I am fairly new in this whole actually digging into the Bible thing. I have been reading it for as long as I can remember, but it is within the past year and a half or so that I really started to encourage myself to dig into it. On top of that, it is within the past few months that I have been pushing myself to dig in more often- daily. )) In my readings this morning, it really stood out. I kept coming back to it, even after I had continued reading on. I guess you could say that is where I decided to plant my shovel and dig on in.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers

The wording is pretty self explanatory there. Is this another ‘treat others how you want to be treated‘/ Golden Rule situation? I mean, on one hand- I think it is. On the other hand- I don’t think how you want to be treated even comes into play here.

Story time:

I love Walmart- probably more than most people. I go often, and often enjoy it. (Yes, I understand the need to support locally owned businesses. However, my small town does not have a dug store, grocery store, etc. So Walmart is actually my only option unless I want to drive 30 minutes away.) Almost every time I go to Walmart, I encounter a rare species known as the Idiot.  You know the kind? Groups who stand and talk and spread out their carts blocking entire ends of aisles? People who stand, looking at their phone, right in front of where others are trying to shop, and don’t move out of the way? People who have no regard for those moving behind them and stop harshly during forward motion or start to back up out of nowhere without seeing if they are going to hit another person/cart? Yeah, that’s the kind of stupid I am talking about here. Don’t even get me started on the parking lot stupidity.–and OH MAN do I have a history of making it obvious that I feel these people are a special brand of stupid- Massive sighs, rushing round them as fast as I can without running, eye rolling, even talking about what they are doing when I am on the phone and know I am within earshot. ((I really am a terrible person.))–So if I were doing something in Walmart, that would classify me into that idiot category, I actually would want someone to treat me like it, so I wouldn’t do it again. It’s just how I am. I don’t want to be an inconvenience to other shoppers, so if I am being so, I deserve to accept the consequences. It’s just how I believe in the regard.

Treat others how you want to be treated.

See, it doesn’t apply here. The verse explicitly says to ‘be hospitable’ to those around you. None of the actions that I described are anything I would say is ‘hospitable’.

Miriam-Webster defines Hospitable as:

a :given to generous and cordial reception of guests 
b :promising or suggesting generous and friendly welcome 
c :offering a pleasant or sustaining environment 
All of my reactions to stupidity in Walmart are far from generous, cordial, friendly, or pleasant. Honestly,  at that point it is downright rude- why should I have regard for what they think if I will never see them again? Because Hebrews 13:2 says I should.
Miriam-Webster’s Hospitable definition C is not defined in terms of hospitable actions/attributes people, but hospitable environments- which is usually a term used with plants. Pretty much every plant needs a unique environment that is hospitable to its own specific needs- certain PH range, air quality, temperatures, sunlight levels, etc. If an environment is not hospitable- it will die. Plain and simple. Though humans do not necessarily die from unkind environments- every human is different and sensitive in different ways. ((Hello, suicide is a thing and it has resulted from unkind environments.)) Unkind environments can kill a lot of things within a person- their faith in God and spirituality as a whole, their self-esteem, parts of their personality, etc. All in all, an inhospitable environment is not nurturing and it does not allow room for growth. Often times, it seems that when we create inhospitable environments for others, it contributes to an inhospitable environment in yourself.
If cannot be kind, what can we be? Kindness is one of the simplest acts of hospitality out there. A little kindness and understanding goes a long way. And don’t get me wrong, I definitely understand that it is not an easy thing to do when it comes to people we do not know or are not comfortable around, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Those people in Walmart, that I do not know and probably won’t see again? I guess a little kindness and understanding could go a long way. They could be having rough days and are really in need of someone to cut them a break. They could be catching up with old friends that they haven’t seen in years, and is it really that big of a deal for me to walk an extra 20 steps to go the other way? The lady on her phone could be looking at a recipe or shopping list to determine what she needs to buy, or her bank account to make sure she has enough money (because man do I understand that.). Sometimes you just have to force yourself to step back and think about what may be going on in these people’s lives. Things that do not constitute anger and frustration and things that might be helped with a little hospitality.

for thereby some have entertained angels unawares

Upon my digging about the term ‘angels unawares’ I discovered that this in fact errs more in the direction of the word ‘messengers’. Essentially meaning that people have entertained or interacted with messengers from the Lord. We do not know what the Lord is using that person to accomplish, and we most certainly do not want to step in the way. That person may have a purpose within your own life or someone else’s, but who are we to interfere with God’s divine plan. We know He is going to get the message to it’s destination- one way or another, but why would we want to stand in the way of any of His methods? If you have ever knowingly been a light in someone’s life, or helped someone grow closer to the Lord, then you know- it does something beyond compare in your own life and in your own spirit. We do not want to stand in the way of the messenger or the person who is intended to receive. Not to mention, like a ripple in the water, you do not know what it could do in someones life to witness you react in God’s image when you could have reacted in a worldly and unkind manner.

 

We, as humans, need to build each other up and help each other grow. We need to be hospitable to others in order to nurture their growth, and in turn aid in our own. I am certainly not inhuman, and I definitely struggle in this regard. I am a self proclaimed ‘terrible person’, but maybe that is something I need to not be so proud of. It is common in today’s society to be proud of being a loner, or be proud of making people feel stupid or inferior. But how is that nurturing to anyone? I understand the need for alone time, but if that is all you seek, you cannot grow and you cannot help others grow. I understand the frustrations with ignorance, but if you handle it by lashing out, you cannot grow and you cannot help others grow. I don’t know about you, but I do not want to be stagnant. I need constant forward motion for the greater good- of myself and others. It is my whole life to be proactive to ensure safe and good environments. I need to carry this on into my interactions with people I may not know.

It’s certainly interesting to me. I do not think often of my day to day interactions with strangers like this. When I think of biblical interactions with strangers I think of evangelical events in large crowds, or obvious God-given moments with the gas station clerk that I interact with on a regular basis- but not on the strangers that I may only see once in my life in a shopping aisle or on the street. It has never occurred to me that someone acting in an ignorant manner, could be one of those God-given moments to act in his image. At the same time, I would hate to think that one of my rude Walmart interactions had adversely affected someone’s faith.

As my own personal call to action- for myself and for any readers- think of this when you encounter that stupid driver, unaware shopper, or ignorant person in any situation. Be kind. Be understanding. Be hospitable. Because you do not know what God may be working in their life or in your own.

 

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