Hebrews 13:1-3 (KJV)
Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.
These are some of the key Scriptures upon which Remember Ministries is founded. When Jesus shows us His love and begins to teach us to how to love like Him, our lives are transformed. Divine love does that! He gives us love for strangers that we have never met, for those who suffer hardship, for the refugee who is trapped in a world where they are often despised and for whom countries are slamming their doors shut.
This exhortation to entertain and befriend strangers set between the two bookends of loving others and suffering empathetically with others is a beautiful picture of our faith. The last verse is profound in its demand upon us. Remember those in prison as if you were bound together with them there, and those who are mistreated (oppressed/tormented) as if it were your own flesh being mistreated.
What is really being said here? This is my paraphrase:
As we abide or continue in love for one another, remember to befriend strangers and welcome them into your homes. Allow your heart to bind itself to the hearts of those who suffer, so that you feel their suffering and as you do this, this form of love will express itself in action.
It is a beautiful and fearsome phrase, that we are ‘bound with them,’ with afflicted souls and those who are captive; and surely, in Paul’s day, the reference that sprang to mind immediately was those Christ-followers who were bound and imprisoned for the sake of Christ and the gospel.
The great power of identification is ours, just as it is our Saviour’s, who identified with all sinners when he hung on the cross and died, bearing our punishment upon himself. As God’s children, we are to identify with the prisoner and those who suffer adversity. And as we do this, it will motivate us to do all in our power to relieve their suffering.
Christianity is not a cold emotionless religion. Christians should not stand apart from suffering or keep themselves detached from and immune to the pain of others. We follow where our Saviour leads us. Jesus did not protect himself from the suffering inherent in love. He felt it keenly and we see it in the Garden of Gethsemane as he sweat drops of blood in agonies of suffering in anticipation of the cross before him.
It is the Holy Spirit who unites each of us within the Body of Christ and enables us to live this truth: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (1 Cor. 12:26)
The Greek word for remember is more than just having these people in our thoughts. This remembering is an active verb and implies thoughts which lead to definitive actions.
So many of our brothers and sisters are suffering and have so little. Many have been targeted and persecuted and lost their jobs, homes, extended families and more, becoming refugees, and now have not even a country to call their own.
The same God who decreed that we would live here in the freedom we enjoy in Canada is the same God who commands us to remember those in prisons and those who suffer.
As we welcome the oppressed, the persecuted, the stranger and the refugee into our homes, our joy will be full. As God welcomes us into His family, let us welcome others.