The author of the Hebrews writes: “be not forgetful to entertain strangers” as a way of reminding us to be hospitable to those who declare a new and fresh revelation of the manifold wisdom of God. The Lord was a stranger to the world. He was rejected because He came preaching the Kingdom of Heaven among a people who dwelt in a lower order. But, even today, the divine truths of the full gospel of the Kingdom continue to be dismissed by most Christians as the words of mere strangers. It is to such a people that the Lord says: “I was a stranger and you did not take Me in” (Mat. 25:43).
Let us further consider the context in which these words were uttered by the Lord. In Matthew 25:31-46, we read that when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will judge the nations separating them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. Here, Jesus lays out the criteria for the judgment of the nations. Those who fed Him, gave Him drink, clothed Him, visited Him and took Him in are counted as the sheep who will inherit the Kingdom. While those who failed to receive Him are sent to everlasting (aionian – age-enduring) fire.
What can we understand from this? I recently heard a political analyst on a popular US TV program refer to Matthew 25 in light of recent events in that country. He stated that how America receives refugees who come to their borders seeking asylum was what Jesus was referring to in Matthew 25. Such understanding captures the widely accepted belief among most believers regarding Matthew 25. But was this what the Lord was speaking of?
As we read that section of scripture, we can see that the Lord is talking about more than deeds towards the asylum seeker, the poor, the sick, the hungry or the estranged, as vital as all these are. I do not disparage or downplay these acts of love, kindness, and compassion towards the vulnerable. However, in this particular section of scripture, the Lord is not speaking about the strangers and poor in the world, but rather His brethren. When the Lord was asked: “when did we see You a stranger and not take You in?”. His reply was: “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these MY BRETHEREN, you did it to Me” (Mat. 25:40).
So, who are His brethren that the Lord identifies Himself with? Jesus put it in these simple words: “whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother” (Mat. 12:50). His brethren are sons of the Kingdom who are conformed to the image of His Son. His brethren are those being sanctified to God. “For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb. 2:11). We see then that that Lord’s brethren are sons who are members of His body and who share the spirit and nature of Christ. Therefore, those who receive them receive Him for in them the divine revelation and coming of the Lord is manifested. It is for this reason that the Lord declares: “whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” (Mar. 9:41).
Notice also that the Lord does not only refer to them as His brethren, but the “least” of His brethren. The Lord has different categories of brothers who vary in purpose, capacity, rank, and order (1 Cor. 12:17-19). The least of His brethren are the first-fruit company of elect sons who have been ordained to occupy an appointed position in God. According to the estimation of men, these are least in size, in dignity, and in significance. Today, they remain veiled from those in the world and religion. But God choses the lowly and despised to bring to nothing the things that are.
This a reoccurring theme in scripture. Bethlehem was least among the thousands of Judah, but out of her came a Ruler who would rule with a scepter of righteousness to shepherd His people (Mic. 5:2). In Benjamin, the youngest and last of the sons of Jacob, there was conveyed the culmination of all blessing for all the tribes of Israel. For in Benjamin (son of the right hand) is summed up all spiritual attainment. On and on we can go from Gideon who was the weakest in Manasseh and least in his family, to David who was the youngest of the sons of Jesse, and to Paul who counted himself least of the apostles.
But, in the order of the Kingdom, he who is least is great (Luk. 9:48). Thus, it is said, blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Mat. 5:3). These are the least of His brethren who, with a broken and contrite spirit, willingly lay down their lives daily in obedient submission to the Spirit of God. These are the strangers that the Lord speaks of in Matthew 25. I believe it is also this company of sons that the writer of the Hebrews refers to when He writes of entreating strangers. John declares: “Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the BRETHEREN and for STRANGERS… because they went forth for His name’s sake… We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth” (3 Joh. 5-8).
To be considered a stranger and treated as an outcast is part and parcel of our calling as the least of His brethren. This is the portion of every son of God who wishes to be fully identified with Christ in this age. The Lord reassures us: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (Joh. 15:18-19).
The world does not know us, because it does not know Him (1 Joh. 3:2). And until those multitudes of our fellow brothers in religious Babylon know Him, they will never know us or receive our witness. The Psalmist echoes these sentiments saying: “I am a stranger in the earth… I have become a stranger to my brothers, And an alien to my mother’s children” (Psa. 119:19, 69:8).
Thousands of God’s elect sons in this hour find themselves without affiliation or institution or label or brand. We are foreigners and pilgrims in this world (1 Pet 2:11). We are strangers to the thoughts, ways, and traditions of man. When the central supremacy of Christ found its reality in us, everything of this world became strange to us just as we became strangers to it. God help us embrace our status just like the generals of faith who lived as strangers and pilgrims on the earth (Heb. 11:13). Faithful Abraham dwelt in the land of promise as a foreigner for he waited for that city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
In closing, I share from a letter by Carl Schwing: “In the simple words of this hymn we find the secret of where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going. Oh, how often in this pilgrim journey we have heard the still small voice saying, “You are a stranger here.” Our inner son cries out day and night for the “more exalted sphere.” It is not a place far off … it is not a place at all … it is in the depths of Jesus Christ. Hallelujah! …He will walk with you in the Now of Eternity. He will whisper the words of freedom to your spirit. Ah, what is life in Adam’s realm but a moment… We are here but to serve a noble purpose. We are strangers working, little by little, our way back home. It was never meant that we should be bound by the chains of the world, religion, or men … the flesh is enough of a bondage! We were born free in the long ago; we are free; we will ever be free.”
I am sure that you, like me, can testify of the witness in your spirit often reminding you that you are a stranger and a pilgrim in this world. During times when my flesh has risen up to be seen, to be acknowledged and esteemed, the Lord has reminded me that to rule and reign in “Adam’s realm” is a demotion for the sons of God. It is difficult for the flesh to be veiled in obscurity. Dear brother/sister, you and I are appointed for a service and position that eye has not seen nor ear has heard nor have entered into the heart of man. He has seated us in heavenly places having ordained us to be kings and priests of His divine kingdom.
All that the Lord has begun to reveal and do in us in this hour can never be substituted for the momentary recognition of men. Dear beloved, consider it not loss to be counted as strangers and among the least of His brethren for those who receive you and your witness shall be blessed of the Father to inherit the Kingdom.