Caring For Refugees, Immigrants and Prisoners: Hebrews 13:1-3
“1) Let love of the brethren continue. 2) Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. 3) Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.” Hebrews‬ ‭13:1-3‬
This text has always intrigued me. We are commanded to continue in Gods love, especially when it comes to showing care and hospitality to strangers. Some of these strangers were part of the persecuted church who lost everything for the sake of the gospel and became refugees or prisoners. (Hebrews 6:10; 10:32-34) The concept of ministering to immigrants and refugees might fit well into the context of these verses.
God wants His church to wrap arms of care and compassion around displaced people. Need and opportunity for this crucial ministry abounds today. We are living in a world of millions of displaced people. The word “hospitality” means we are to open our homes to them!
The reason given is that “by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Angelic activity is seen throughout the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation. They often took on human form and even ate food and drank water. Some seem to be on assignment to test Christian compassion. The text may indicate they are especially active among displaced people.
The author says the best way to show Christan love is to treat strangers as though we were ministering to angels. This is almost a flashback to Hebrews 1:14 where we are informed that angels are “ministering spirits sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation.” They do not draw attention to themselves. They seem to be humble, silent and often unseen agents of heaven, but they are real and active in the world.
The writer then switches gears to talk about “Remember the prisoners as though in prison with them.” (Hebrews 13:3) In many countries today, countless Christians are in prison for the sake of the gospel. It is part of the oppression and persecution of believers. The same was true for the early church. We are to do everything in our power to minister to them and their families on the outside. Prison ministry was a priority in the early church very similar to ministering to widows and orphans.
Over the years I have been involved in a good share of prison ministry. The gospel is very active among those who are incarcerated. I have met some amazing saints in the incarcerated church. Many have been converted and discipled while in prison. The text makes no distinction between those in prison from persecution and those who committed crimes. The gospel and Christian compassion is to be shared with all people.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global