“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unaware.” – Heb. 13:2
The religious denominations of Christianity have a blemished history of rejecting any new revelation and outpouring of the Spirit of God. This is, in-part, the reason for the vast division that we see in the church system today. Anyone with a fresh revelation that challenges the old is labeled a heretic, excommunicated and forced to start their own crowd until they too eventually face the same dilemma. Today we see a religious system that is more set on its ways and legalistic dogmas than ever before. Though many of the Lord’s people can often be heard praying for the Lord to do a “new thing”, they remain comfortable with the old ways of the barren church order of the past. What those who pray for a new experience in God fail to realize is that first, what is new makes the old obsolete (Heb. 10:9). Secondly, what is new is a strange sound to uncircumcised ears (Jer. 6:10).
Lost among the multitudes in this hour is the spiritual capacity to “entertain strangers” – that is, to be hospitable to anyone who declares a new revelation of the manifold wisdom of God. This spiritual decline is pictured in the book of Revelation where John sees in vision two witnesses killed in the street of that great city of religious Babylon (Rev. 11). The two witnesses represent the ministry of the Spirit and the Word. They represent the progressive unfolding of the Lord in and through His people by the ministration of the Spirit and the Word. Their killing signifies the rejection and extermination of their witness. Thus, the Spirit and the Word are silenced from witnessing in that great city of organized religion. These two witnesses and the people in whom they find expression are strangers in that city, they neither belong there nor are they welcome. Their words and very presence is contrary to the teachings, ways, methods, and spirit of that city.
The ministry of the Word and the Spirit is the ministry of Christ. These two witnesses were embodied in the Lord Jesus Christ in the days of His flesh. Thus, He was rejected, hated and killed just as they were. But, as you read the accounts of the two witnesses, you will see that they are raised up by God after three-and-a-half days and caught-up, ascending to heaven in a cloud. Praise God! In Christ, God has raised up again His witnesses among His elect. And through them, the Spirit and the Word are testifying by the power of God’s Christ to liberate those who inhabit that great city of religion. And while we rejoice in this, we continue to see among the multitudes in religious Babylon that the two witnesses continue to be rejected as strangers and slayed.
After His rejection at Nazareth, Jesus sent His disciples two by two instructing them how they were to minister and deal with rejection in the cities they visited. But, why did He send them in twos? I believe it was to foreshadow the ministry of the two witnesses. Thus, He instructed them saying: “whoever will not receive you (the Spirit working in you) nor hear you (the Word you preach), when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet” (Mar. 6:11, emphasis added). The disciples were sent bearing the burden and ministry of the two witnesses. They were sent into foreign cities, to an undiscerning people where they and their message would be strangers.
A stranger is often viewed with doubt and caution. Strangers are without reputation. They are outsiders met with skepticism and mistrust. Thus, the usual instruction of parents to their children: “don’t talk to strangers”. But, is this not the instruction of the religious leaders of our day to the spiritual children in their pews? Is this not why many go back to their overseers for validation of the new things they hear? Children don’t have the ability to discern. Therefore, they have to view every stranger as a potential danger. Imagine how senseless it would be to tell an adult not to talk to a stranger. In light of this, the instruction to “entertain strangers” is for those who are no longer children bound by the spirit of fear.
The exclusion and rejection of the stranger or unfamiliar ‘other’ threads through the course of human history. We often gravitate and assimilate with our own and distance ourselves from those who are unfamiliar, different or unrelated to us. It has been the mark of human nature to segregate those who do not share one’s ideology, culture, values, appearance, history, status or group identity. But our Lord Jesus calls us to open our hearts and our lives to the stranger. His life exemplified this truth. He drew close to the rejects of society. The tax collector, the prostitute, the lepers, the poor, the sick, the dying, and the unlearned found a companion in Him. He opposed the spirit of exclusiveness, control, and sectarianism and championed oneness in God.
Through Jesus, we learn that only the one who knows what it is to be a stranger can receive a stranger. Our Lord Jesus was Himself a stranger to this world. He came to this world having emptied Himself, making Himself of no reputation (Phil. 2:7). None knew Him. None understood Him. None recognized the truth He declared. None could grasp the logic of His life. None could discern what daily sustained Him. By all accounts, our Lord Jesus Christ was a foreigner in the days of His flesh – an alien to a world that rejected and hated Him. “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (Joh. 1:10-11). The prophet Isaiah declares that He was despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Isaiah goes on to speak of our reception of Him as a stranger – we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him (Isa. 53:3).
To everyone who does not know Him, the Lord first comes as a stranger, revealing Himself in new and unfamiliar ways. He manifests Himself through a word, a revelation, an experience that is foreign. Thus, His voice can, at first, seem like the voice of a stranger. Perhaps you, like me, remember that time in your life when God began to break forth in your heart the message of sonship, of the Kingdom of God, and the reconciliation of all things. The message was a strange sound to our ears. But in the deep recesses of our spirit there was a confirmation that these were not the words of a stranger but the voice of our Beloved. How many today who have heard these same precious truths have rejected it as the voice of a stranger? To such a people, the Lord declares even today: “I was a stranger and you did not take Me in” (Mat. 25:43).
The writer of the Hebrews reminds us: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers”. Today, the Lord is a stranger to Laodicea. He stands knocking on the door of those who congregate under that old order (Rev. 3:20). Dear saint, do you knock on the door to your own house? Only a stranger knocks. But where you live, you come in freely because you have the keys and you are the master of that house. Today, the Lord has become a stranger in His own house. That those who pay allegiance to the religious system of man have become alienated from the truth of God and from God’s eternal purpose, bears witness to their estrangement. Their rejection of His truth, His purpose and His will is the rejection of the Lord Himself. But to the one who hears His voice and opens the door, the Lord declares: “I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20). In other words, I will no longer be a stranger to him.
However, bear in mind that the Lord is a stranger to us in any area of our life where He does not exercise dominion. It is in those areas where He continues to knock that He may come in to fill it with His life and glory.
To be continued…