Point of Reference
by Fred Price
“…for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2 Have you ever seriously considered that possibility? Abraham comes immediately to mind as having done so ( Genesis 18:1-33), one of his visitors possibly being the Lord God himself. 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 family ushered to safety as Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of their wickedness. ( Genesis 19:1-22 – see also Genesis 32:22-32 & 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 – John the Baptist’s father ( Luke 1:5-20); all obviously recognizable as supernatural manifestations. However, Peter was rather rudely awakened by an unknown benefactor while in prison, who led him out released from his chains only to suddenly disappear; it was only after the fact that Peter realized who had aided him in his escape. ( Acts 12:1-11) And yet there is another aspect to “entertaining strangers” that could have a profound impact on how each and every one of us live our lives. It may take some adjusting of our expectations and mindset, but that’s usually the case when we honestly attempt to become one with Christ in word and deed. ( Philippians 2:5)
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 Jewish religious law asking, “…what must I do to inherit eternal life?” By way of answering, Jesus told him a story about a man who came to be known as 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 out of genuine concern for his well-being. In conclusion, Jesus told his inquisitor to, “Go, and do likewise.” ( Luke 10:25-37)
So how’s that significant? No one knew or took the time to identify the wounded, robbed man lying at the side of the road; he could have been royalty for all they knew. (Which shouldn’t really matter.) Or it may have been someone specifically placed there by God to test their willingness to serve, giving them opportunity to put their faith to work. These men were like the woman Jesus met at Jacob’s well in Samaria, who had a confused outlook on life and a skewed understanding of the worship of Jehovah. In her casual conversation with Jesus, she questioned and debated with the very Messiah whose appearance she claimed to expectantly anticipate. ( John 4:1-26)
In fact, Jesus tells us that his presence can be found in the face of all men. In likening Judgment Day to a shepherd separating sheep from goats; the sheep representing his faithful followers who seized on opportunities to serve the less fortunate while the goats represented those who failed to recognize their responsibility to respond to human need – he noted the Kings response when both the blessed and rebuked 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 (the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick and imprisoned) you did for me .” ( Matthew 25:31-46) He went on to pointedly declare that, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven.” Not even those who suppose that a collection of good deeds will gain them automatic entry there, “…but only he who does the will of my father in heaven.” ( Matthew 7:21-23) If flashy “acts of righteousness” won’t do it, what will? Christ considered the answer to that question to be a combination of, “Love 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 a good model of, “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 poignantly writes, “It is no use saying that we are born two thousand years too late to give room to Christ. Nor will those who live at the end of the world have been born too late. 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 nursed Africans caught in the slave trade), 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
I don’t know that God manipulates every encounter we have throughout the day – but I don’t know that he doesn’t either! How different would our world be if we approached every individual and every situation with the belief that God placed us there for a specific purpose, meeting him there in praise, thanksgiving and service; even if that purpose is only to brighten someone’s day with a smile or to soothe their troubled spirit with a kind word. If we greeted every person we come in contact with as an opportunity to enjoy Christ’s company or to minister to his need, how much more fulfilling and effective would our lives be? As travelers on the winding road of life, 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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Fred Price - married (48 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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