Read Genesis 18:1-33
It was February of 1991. Our three-year-old son, my wife, and I were traveling on a cold wintry day on a state route outside of Fort Wayne, IN on our way to help a family member in Dayton, OH move to a new home. Weather and road conditions were deteriorating rapidly. As we approached the Ohio line, we found ourselves entangled in a multicar accident. Thankfully, we were not injured. Unfortunately, our car was totaled. It seemed that we were stranded in a wintry world of white with nowhere to go and no one we knew. But the people in the nearest house offered us not only a warm living room while we made some phone calls but even overnight housing allowing family members to come to our rescue the next day.
Now, clearly, we were not angelic beings like two of the three visitors that Abraham took in during the mid-day heat. Neither was any of us a theophany (God appearing as a man) like the other of the three visitors Abraham welcomed. But we, like the three in today’s reading, did experience the warm hospitality of others.
The idea of hospitality demonstrated towards strangers is a scary thought today. We are taught to be skeptical about strangers. We never know who they really are. Are they who they claim to be? Could she be a serial killer? Could he be a child-molester? Could their story just be a great deception designed to deceive? Those are valid questions! In fact, I once heard about a 90+ year old woman who went to the door as a man initially said he needed money for gas and then he proceeded to injure her. We need to be appropriately cautious and incredibly wise.
While being wise and cautious, God wants us to love our neighbor (who may a stranded motorist we have never before met) and to demonstrate hospitality to strangers. In fact, when we help strangers out, we may be experiencing an angelic encounter without realizing it. Here is the way that Hebrews puts it:
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (Heb. 13:2).