Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
— Hebrews 13:2
The writer of Hebrews might have been thinking of stories like Genesis 18, when Abraham and Sarah welcomed visitors who turned out to be messengers from God.
I like to think the spark of the divine in all of us should push us to assume that everyone we encounter should be treated as an honored guest.
I’ve been fortunate to be on the receiving end of generous hospitality, and it was life-changing. When I lived and served with churches in Brazil, the gracious hospitality of my host families and their communities changed my life.
Years later, after I was married and had moved back to my home community, that experience informed another life-changing decision — to live in a house that welcomed people who needed short-term or emergency housing. Nata and I ended up staying there for three years as the house hosts, and it was an opportunity for us to practice the kind of hospitality Hebrews 13:2 describes, every day.
It was a wonderful and challenging experience. As I reflect on it, I think that to maintain that level of hospitality requires an inner knowledge of self-limitations and the ability to set healthy boundaries.
For myself, it took that experience to help me identify those things. And so, as it happens so often, while it was my responsibility to give or to serve, I also received.
This duality is one that we learn over and over again as we practice Christian service. We serve others as a way of living out the biblical command to treat others as we would want to be treated — and, in doing so, we often receive more than we can offer.
Even if we’ve experienced it 100 times, the 101st time can still surprise us.
In this issue we have collected stories about service. Christian service can take many forms, and hospitality is a prime example. In fact, I would dare to say that hospitality, coupled with manual labor, would be the top two favorites for Anabaptists.
You’ll see examples of these and more in this issue. You’ll notice that on page 8 there is even a mention of angels.
In the spirit of Hebrews 13:2, I encourage you to ask yourself: Who are the angels throughout this issue? And, if you are feeling especially reflective: Who are the angels you’ve encountered lately?