“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).
We really enjoyed chiding a friend as he grumbled about once again being asked for assistance by someone with a hard luck story that didn’t quite hold together. “Don’t you know that was probably an angel and you turned him away?” we teased. In disgust, he quickly retorted, “I don’t think angels smell like liquor.” Apparently, his “angel” had imbibed a bit before their encounter.
I’ve wondered since then, just what does an “angel unawares” look like? Are they always neat, clean, and polite? Do they speak proper English and carry themselves with dignity? Or can an angel look like someone of another culture? Or possibly like someone homeless and a bit smelly? Or perhaps someone with disabilities?
Just what does the Lord expect when He says to entertain strangers? It is so easy for me to be nice to my friends. I’m comfortable to have them drop in even if there is dust and clutter. I can rummage in the pantry for a snack without feeling embarrassed that it is not some exquisitely prepared feast. While God wants me to be hospitable, I doubt sharing a bag of chips and a Coke at my kitchen counter with a friend qualifies as angel entertaining.
To find yourself in an “angel situation” you must first slow down long enough to notice their presence. We rush through our day, armed with our electronic calendar, as we scurry from errand to errand. Nowhere on that calendar does it say, “Stop and look for angels.”
Angels really aren’t that difficult to find or entertain. They may be wearing the disguise of—
- A single mom struggling financially or emotionally.
- A foreign exchange student, far from home and lonely.
- A widow or widower whose “social circle” has narrowed to the postman, the grocery clerk, and one or two others.
- A recent immigrant struggling with different customs and a new language.
- A teen needing acceptance and someone to listen.
- A disabled person living in a nursing home. (They aren’t all elderly.)
- The cranky old man next door who has experienced some major setbacks in life.
It’s actually enjoyable to interact with someone outside our usual circle of friends. One Christmas I volunteered to visit an elderly lady whose only family was a nephew living in another town. With no greater investment than a small box of chocolates, I was rewarded with a fascinating glimpse into ninety-plus years of a full life. She described times and events before my birth, life growing up in an orphanage, a childless marriage and then widowhood, working in a home for the blind into her late seventies, and finally being blessed with her small senior apartment. It was well worth the hour or two I spent visiting that cold winter day.
Mother Teresa summed up angel entertaining pretty well when she said, “Spread love everywhere you go: First of all in your own house . . . let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness in your warm greeting.”
Determine to be that “living expression of God’s kindness” by reaching out to others. You can touch a life for Him—and you will both be blessed by the encounter.
Start watching for angels!