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Point of Reference

    by Fred Price

"Do not forget to entertain strangers,..." Hebrews 13:2
Date Posted: July 15, 2022

“…for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” Have you ever seriously considered that possibility? Abraham comes immediately to mind as having done so. ( Genesis 18:1-33) Abraham’s nephew Lot was later rewarded for his hospitality offered to two – unbeknownst to him – angelic visitors who were accosted by his neighboring Sodomites; he and his daughters ushered to safety as Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of their wickedness. ( Genesis 19:1-22 – see also Genesis 32:22-32and Judges 6:11-16 for other examples of angelic communication with Jacob and Gideon.)

New Testament examples of angelic visitation include Mary and Joseph ( Luke 1:26-38& Matthew 2:3-15), as well as Zechariah ( Luke 1:5-20); all obviously recognizable as supernatural manifestations. However, Peter was rather abruptly awakened by an unknown benefactor while in prison, who then equally abruptly disappeared; it was only after the fact that Peter realized who had aided him. ( Acts 12:1-11) And yet there is another aspect to “entertaining strangers” that could profoundly impact all our lives. It may take some adjusting of our expectations and mindset, but that’s usually the case when we genuinely attempt to become one with Christ in word and deed. ( Philippians 2:1-5)

What I’m referring to is the possibility of coming fact-to-face with Christ on a daily basis – and not recognizing him. Luke records an expert in the “Law” asking, “…what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered with a story about the “Good Samaritan”. In coming upon the scene of a Jewish man robbed and desperately wounded, several fellow Jews crossed to the other side of the road to avoid any time-consuming entanglements; only the despised foreigner responded to his need. No one knew or took the time to identify the wounded man lying at the roadside; he could have been royalty for all they knew. Could it have been someone specifically placed there by God to test their willingness to serve, giving them opportunity to put their faith to work? Like the woman Jesus met at Jacob’s well in Samaria, the “experts” questioned and debated the very existence of the Messiah they claimed to expectantly anticipate. ( John 4:1-26) In conclusion, Jesus told his inquisitor to, “Go, and do likewise.” ( Luke 10:25-37)

Jesus tells us that he can be found in the face of all men. In likening Judgment Day to a shepherd separating sheep from goats – the sheep representing those who seized on opportunities to serve the less fortunate while the goats represented those who failed to do so – he noted the “Kings” response when both asked how and when they had responded so well or poorly. “…whatever you did (or did not do) for one of the least of these brothers of mine you did for me.” ( Matthew 25:31-46) He had previously warned that, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven.” Not even those boasting of good deeds will gain automatic entry there, “…but only he who does the will of my father in heaven.” ( Matthew 7:21-23) And that starts by, “Lov(ing) the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” ( Deuteronomy 6:5) This is the first and greatest commandment! And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ( Leviticus 19:18) All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments. There is no commandment greater than these.” Matthew 22:37-40 & Mark 12:28-31 Consequently, the early church leaders believed that, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.”; as well as keeping oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27 (See also Psalm 146:9 & Is. 1:17)

Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic worker movement in New York asserts, “Christ is always with us, always asking for room in our hearts… But now it is with the voice of our contemporaries that he speaks, with the eyes of store clerks, factory workers, and children that he gazes; with the names of office workers, slum dwellers, and suburban housewives that he gives. It is with the feet of soldiers and tramps that he walks, and with the heart of anyone in need that longs for shelter. And giving shelter or food to anyone who asks for it, or needs it, is giving it to Christ.”

“If we hadn’t got Christ’s own words for it, it would seem raving lunacy to believe that if I offer a bed and food and hospitality to some man or woman or child, I am replaying the part of… Martha or Mary, and that my guest is Christ. There is nothing to show it, perhaps. There are no haloes already glowing around their heads – at least none that human eyes can see. It is not likely that I shall be vouch-safed the vision of Elizabeth of Hungary (a thirteenth century princess), who put the leper in her bed and later, going to tend him, saw no longer the leper’s stricken face, but the face of Christ. The part of a Peter Claver (a seventeenth century Jesuit who tended African slaves), who gave a stricken negro his bed and slept on the floor at his side, is more likely to be ours. For Peter Claver never saw anything with his bodily eyes except the exhausted black faces…; he had only faith in Christ’s own words that these people were Christ.”

“To see how far one realizes this, it is a good thing to ask honestly what you would do, or have done, when a beggar asked at your house for food. Would you – or did you give it on an old cracked plate, thinking that was good enough? Do you think that Martha or Mary thought that the old and chipped dish was good enough for their guest?”

“For the total Christian, the goad of duty is not needed – always prodding one to perform this or that good deed. It is not duty to help Christ, it is a privilege. Is it likely that Martha and Mary sat back and considered that they had done all that was expected of them – is it likely that Peter’s mother-in-law grudgingly served …because she thought it was her “duty”? She did it gladly;…”

“If that is the way they gave hospitality to Christ, it is certain that that is the way it should still be given. Not for the sake of humanity. Not because it might be Christ who stays with us, comes to see us, takes up our time. Not because these people remind us of Christ… but because they are Christ… “ 1

How different would our world be if we approached every individual and situation with the belief that God placed us there for a specific purpose, meeting him there in praise, thanksgiving and service. How much more fulfilling would our lives be if we greeted every person we come in contact with as an opportunity to enjoy Christ’s company or to minister to his need? In traveling our own road to “Emmaus”, let’s resolve to open our minds, hearts and eyes to the possibilities of “entertaining” Christ; our spirits yearning in anticipation and our hearts burning with recognition. (See Luke 24:13-32)

1Taken from an essay written by Ms. Day titled, “Room For Christ”.

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Biography Information:

Fred Price - married (49 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.

Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker.  He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today.  Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.  

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