“Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. ... Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:1-6)
Chapter 13 of the Letter to the Hebrews opens with a list of instructions. Love each other. Entertain strangers. Remember the prisoners and the abused. Be faithful in marriage. Do not be greedy. Be content with what you have. This list shows us what the life of faith looks like.
The opening sentence of Hebrews 13 expresses the shape the Christian life should take: “Let mutual love continue.” We are reminded that we live in relation to others. There are certain characteristics people should be able to see in a Christian’s life: care, concern, purity, faithfulness, freedom, generosity and loyalty. This list is not just about how to look good to the neighbors or get God to like you. It is about letting the light of Jesus that lives in you shine out into the lives of the people you meet.
When the recipients of this letter read this list of moral advice, they would have seen more than a checklist. They would have seen the faces of people they knew. In other words, they would have understood this advice as encouragement to help each other continue to live out the way of Jesus in all their relationships. It’s the same for us. When we hear the words “let mutual love continue,” we think of those we know who are facing debilitating disease, financial struggles, family difficulties or some other trouble, and we hold them in prayer and reach out to help in practical ways. Life can be very hard, and we need to support and encourage each other.
So often these days, we feel helpless in the face of issues that seem too big for us to solve. But there is something we can do. We can love each other. We can take care of the people God puts in our lives, even if only for a moment.
With confidence we can say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6)
The Rev. Elaine Ruth is pastor at First United Methodist Church in Surgoinsville.