Hebrews 13:1-8: How to Keep Going When the Going Gets Tough
September 24, 2019
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Having made his case that the Hebrew Christians must stick with Christ – and not go back to the old covenant of the Old Testament – the author of the Book of Hebrews now concludes by applying all this to their communal life as Christians, especially as they were facing such pressure and persecution. What should we do as Christians, even when the going gets tough? This passage gives us eight rules.
First, love each other as brothers and sisters. When Christian fellowship and church becomes fractious, there is normally some excuse for the tension and division. Sometimes the “excuse” is valid; sometimes the distinctions must be made when there is something of doctrinal or moral truth at stake. But even then – even when the reasons are valid – Christians must love each other. This is how we are to be known. Love!
Second, in particular, love strangers. The idea of “hospitality” in the New Testament is the love of those who are not yet part of the particular fellowship, who are still outsiders or strangers to the community. It is easy, especially when a church is under pressure or persecution, to turn inwards and forget the larger mission of the church. But we are to love those who are new to the church, show hospitality, love strangers. The phrase “by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” has caused much head scratching over the years. What exactly does it mean? Assuredly, the author of Hebrews is thinking of the Old Testament biblical precedent when Lot – showing hospitality – entertained strangers. If it happened once, it could happen again. It is easy to look down on newcomers or outsiders as somehow less worthy. But in truth they may be far more worthy than any of us.
Third, remember those in prison and those who are mistreated as if you you yourselves were suffering. All this is under the banner of love, but now the author of Hebrews has in view those who are being physically persecuted for their Christian faith. He is thinking of people being beaten up for being Christians or thrown in jail. It might not happen in our town, but it might happen somewhere in our country; and if it does not happen in our country, it certainly happens to Christians around the world. Christian charity and care must prioritize Christians who are being persecuted.
Fourth, sexual faithfulness and marriage fidelity must be emphasized. It is all too easy, especially under persecution, to begin to make light of the fundamental moral virtues of which the Bible speaks. We could think, perhaps, that if God is allowing this to happen to us, why shouldn’t we act immorally. But the marriage bed must be kept pure.
Fifth, keep your life free from the love of money, and instead embrace contentment. It is not only in prosperous times that materialism is a danger; when there is opposition, persecution, the confiscation of our goods, how easy it is to bargain and cheat, lie and steal, to get what we think we deserve. Be content, though, with what you have. The great secret of happiness is contentment with what God has given to you. If you are not content with what you have now, you will not be content either when you have more. You must learn contentment now if you are ever to be happy.
Sixth, for all this God has spoken promises in his word. He will never leave us. And he is our helper. What can people do to us? God is on our side. Therefore, we have great confidence!
Seventh, remember your leaders – again probably here in view especially those leaders who are suffering for their faith. Remember the word of God they spoke. And imitate their way of life. If you have a godly pastor or Christian leader, remember what they teach from the Bible. Watch how they live. Imitate them as they imitate Christ.
And for all this, eighth, Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever! You can trust him. He is reliable. He is unchanging. Put your faith in him.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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