Eat, Pray, Love: A Christian Response to the End of the World
Hebrews 13:1 – 3. Every day I realize more and more how inept I am at parenting, daily. We tell our boys that they’re not allow to tell us “no.” They don’t have the freedom to say “no” to mom and dad. Not because we are trying to raise a bunch of “yes-men,” but because, you guys know, at their age, at their maturity level, it is not like if they’re saying “no,” they are thoughtfully disagreeing with our premise. You know what I mean? When a four year old says “no” it just straight up rebellion. He doesn’t want to do what you told him to do. I would say, “Son, do this” or “Don’t do this” and they would pout back “no.” It is not thoughtful, so we say, “You are not allowed to say that.” When mom and dad say something, you are not allowed to say “no”. That is like a religious mantra in our home, you are not allowed to say “no.” So the other day, I had asked one of them (I think Jack) to do something. He was not listening. Jack can be distracted at times, if you know Jack. So I had asked him 3 or 4 times to do something, and finally I was getting a little testy, maybe a little testy, and I said “Jack, you need do this now,” and he looked at me with that little face and said “no.” And my response was, “are you allowed to say ‘no’ to me?” And the look on his face. He was in-between a rock and a hard place. He knows that when his parents say something to him he is not allowed to not respond. But on the other hand, he was told he is not allowed to say “no” and the only answer to this question is “no.” He did not know how to respond to that.
I think sometimes as Christians we don’t know exactly how to respond to God’s Word. Sometimes we don’t know, we hear sermons, go to Bible classes, or small groups, we read Christian books or theology books and we take in a lot of information, as a Christian or even as a church. Sometimes we just don’t know how to properly respond to truth. Some Christians respond with fighting. So they might hear a sermon like the one we heard last week, which was all about the second coming of Jesus, it was eschatology, it was end times, and it was all about how when Jesus returns he is going to shake the creation and only the unshakable Kingdom will remain. Some Christians might hear a sermon like that and they want to start fighting about what you believe about Revelation 20. Their response is to fight or to bicker or to argue. Some believers want to respond to truth or doctrine or theology with arrogance. Puffed up. “You know we are just a church that loves the word. Our preacher preaches for an hour and we love it.” Right? Arrogance maybe is their response, “We just really love the truth, unlike the other churches that don’t.” Some Christians will go to the other extreme and they will reject doctrine or theology. Right? Because doctrine divides. It is just a bunch of boring old theology so why are we going to waste our time with that? Let’s just focus on what is really important, kind of a thing. A lot of different responses, what should our response be to God’s Word? What should our response be to theology, doctrine, and the gospel?
We have just moved through the book of Hebrews. We are coming into the last chapter and it is heavy. All this biblical theology, old covenant, new covenant, stuff. What do we do with it? What is our response? We find ourselves entering Hebrews 13 this morning, the final chapter of the book. We indeed have moved through some heavy biblical theology. The point, the telos, the goal, the big idea of the entire book of Hebrews has been that Jesus is better. Jesus is better. He’s better than Moses. He’s better than the angels. He’s better than the temple. He is better than the old covenant. Jesus is better, so please don’t fall away from Jesus. If you could summarize the book of Hebrews in one sentence: Jesus is better, don’t fall away from Jesus. We come now to this point in the book a point where we might call the final exhortations. This would be like if you were sending an e-mail and you think of a bunch of stuff last minute and you do the p.s. yada yada yada, or you’re texting someone and you say, “Oh yeah, btw this.” This is the end, these are the last thoughts and he just starts firing them off here. If you were to read all of chapter 13, it is just like he is listing a bunch of different things. This is common in the NT epistles if you read Paul’s letters or James or Hebrews or all these different NT letters, there is a lot of doctrine, theology, stuff at the beginning, and then they move into some application and some exhortation. How do you live now that his is true? Just as you would end a letter, e-mail, or text maybe give last thoughts, so we find ourselves here in Hebrew 13. Remember these NT letters were actual, historical correspondence between apostles and churches. This was a letter that was written to send to a church. We also have mentioned throughout this study of the book of Hebrews, it was actually probably a sermon that was sent to these churches to read here together. It is almost like this is the sermon conclusion. This is the application. This is the point where your belly is starting to growl a little and you can kind of tell the preacher is going to be ending soon so you close the bible, because we probably aren’t going to look at any other verses so we are probably safe. That is where we are at, this is the conclusion.
We’re not going to look at all of chapter 13 this morning, just the first three verses. In these verses, that we read, we’re given three exhortations from the Holy Spirit: (1) he says let brotherly love continue; (2) show hospitality specifically to strangers; and (3) remember those in prison and those who are mistreated. I supposes you could say a proper response to the eschatology, the proper response to the end of the world that we read about last week is eat, pray love, or maybe more accurately, love, eat, pray. This is the only appropriate response to the rich theology that we’ve devoured throughout the book of Hebrews. All of the biblical theology, all of the gospel goodness, all of the sweetness of Jesus that we have walked through together in the book of Hebrews will produce this response in a church, in your home, in your heart.
Let Brotherly Love Continue
The first thing he says in chapter one is: Let brotherly love continue. Let brotherly love continue. The NIV says Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. The Message says Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love. The Greek word for brotherly love in verse 1 is the literally the word φιλαδελφία (Philadelphia). Brotherly love. If you were to read this in Greek, verse 1 would actually read something like, “Remain in Philadelphia.” Remain in brotherly love. Of course he’s not talking about taking up residence in eastern Pennsylvania, he’s talking about abiding in Christian love. Remaining steadfast in charity. He doesn’t call us simply to love one another, but he calls us to brotherly love. Here is the thing about brothers, brothers may fight, brothers may scrap a little, brothers may be on the floor pummeling each other, but the moment someone else challenges your brother, then you’re tag teaming it, right? Then you are suddenly undertaker and cane, everyone else is going down. You can say and do whatever you want to your brother, or your sister, but if someone else says something, it’s on. We are working together, we are a team. You’ve got their back. Brotherly love may quarrel from time to time amongst itself, but when there’s a threat from the outside, brothers and sisters care for each other. Let brotherly love continue. Isn’t that interesting?
The last thing we read at the end of chapter 12 is that Jesus is going to return and shake the creation, and the only thing that is going to remain is the church, the unshakeable kingdom. This is like, epic end of the world stuff here, and the very next sentence is let brotherly love continue. We should be asking ourselves this morning; do we have this kind of love for one another? Is Christ Community Church marked by brotherly love? Do you genuinely believe these people are your siblings, your family? Not in a cheesy call you call him “brother” on Sunday, but don’t think about him for the rest of the week. In a genuine familial way, do we love each other that way? Do we think about each other that way? And it starts in your heart. Doesn’t it? That is where love stems from. Love stems from your affections, your feelings; do you feel that way about your brothers and sisters in Christ? Do we have genuine affection for one another? Or are we just the church people you see once a week?
You know, the early church lived in a Roman culture that accused Christians of being incestuous because they called one another brothers and sisters, even husbands and wives believed they were brother and sister in Christ. The world, the Roman culture at that time, thought, “What a bunch of freaks. What are they talking about? These people are weird!” We believe that, don’t we. We believe that in Christ God is our father, we are brothers and sisters in a heavenly family in the kingdom of Jesus. Man, we have to ask ourselves, do you love your church, do you love these people, in such a way that the world think it’s kind of weird. It is kind of weird that they would give their time or their money in that way. That is kind of weird! Do you love these people in such a way that your unsaved family is kind of offended that you treat these people like your family? I know some of you have experienced that. Let brotherly love continue. This is our family. Let me encourage you this morning with a little hope, if you don’t feel that way, if you are being honest and like, “Man I get what you are saying, but I don’t. You guys are just the Sunday people to me” or whatever. Let me encourage you, pray about that and ask the Lord to change your heart towards this body because the only appropriate response to the end of the world is to let brotherly love continue, to be the church.
Show Hospitality to Strangers
The second response to God’s Word after love, is that we eat. Amen. We eat. We’re called to hospitality. Verse 2 says Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. We have to deal with two issues here – first the mundane and then the magnificent. Let’s start with the mundane: First of all, Christian hospitality. We are called to Christian hospitality, to inside the body and outside the body, right? Believers and unbelievers, Christians and non-Christians. That’s everybody, in case you are trying to do the math. Christian hospitality, this may be the most neglected element of biblical Christianity in our culture today. It just might be. People, Christians, view hospitality as, at best, just kind of a nice thing to do, at worst they view it as needless. Like, “That’s not important. That really doesn’t matter.” We don’t view sharing a meal with our brothers and sisters as a matter of life and death. We don’t see the urgency in having each other into our homes. We don’t view hanging out as spiritual warfare, and we’re wrong.
You know why? It’s because we live in a safe and selfish culture. That is why Christian hospitality is minimized. No one is threatening to round up Christians in metro Detroit and feed them to lions. It is not happening. No one, in this room, had to secretly come to church today hoping they wouldn’t have to go to prison for publically practicing their faith. We don’t live under that threat. But in a culture that is hostile to Christianity, hospitality is a matter of life or death. It is viewed with the importance that it truly bears. We need each other. We need each other in our daily lives. Sometimes I wonder if the apostles looked at modern Christianity, American Christianity, how we are so disconnected from one another, how we can really go without seeing or thinking about each other for a really long time, if we are not careful. I wonder if they would look at that and they would even recognize the church that they started. The church that we see in the book of Acts that lived life together. Christian hospitality is a matter of spiritual warfare. Hanging out with your brothers and sisters from Christ Community Church is sacramental; it’s good for your soul. Fellowship, community, is a means of grace for your life. You cannot go it alone. It is too hard. Even in our safe culture it is too hard, we need one another. So stop with the excuses. Your house isn’t too messy. You’re not too busy. Hang out, spend time together, be a family. It is the only appropriate response to the end of the world. Hang out to the glory of God.
We’re not just called to show hospitality to our gospel siblings, we are also called to show hospitality to strangers, to those outside the community of faith. Have friends that don’t believe the gospel, for the purpose of hopefully winning them to the gospel, even if they always reject because they are a human being. Be friendly and show hospitality. And then he says something magnificent - for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. What in the world does that mean? Some of you might be wondering, have I had an angel over to dinner and I didn’t even know it. Right? This is weird. It’s true. You read the history of redemption, you read the Old Testament, remember Lot, when Lot saved the angels from the men of Sodom when they were trying to rape them and abuse them? Lot was literally entertaining angels. Have you ever had dinner with an angel? I don’t know. I have to give you an “I don’t know” on that one. I know that the secret things belong to the Lord. But I think we may be missing the point here.
I think we may be focusing on the wrong part. You see the mundane may actually be what is truly magnificent in this statement. I think we would all agree that it would be wonderfully fearful to host an angel, right? Remember angels, sometimes we think of angels and we think of precious moments statues, that is not what angels are in the bible. Angels are warriors of YHWH. The literally fight demons, they destroy armies, angels are fearful things. The thought of entertaining and angel, a warrior of God in our home for dinner is a wonderfully fearful thing. But if that is true, if we can all agree if that is true, to host a servant of God for dinner in our home, how much more magnificent is it when you host a human being, one who is made in the image of God. Angels aren’t made in the image of God. The bible says that all of the Christians, all of the redeemed in the New Creation will rule over the angels. If it would be wonderfully fearful to host an angel, how much more magnificent is it when you host an image-bearer. When you have a man or woman over for dinner, you are showing hospitality to those who will rule the angels in the new creation. Wow. When you hang out with an unbelieving friend or family member, you are showing hospitality to one who literally bears the image of the creator of the universe. Christian hospitality is a matter of spiritual warfare. The devil hates it when Christians hang out together. The enemy of God hates it when you invite an unbeliever into your home and you show them love. He wants you cut off from community. As one poet has written, this is the human experience, “guilt has a way of showing up when you’re alone.” Be together. Show hospitality. Church it is the only reasonable response to the end of the world.
Remember Prisoners and the Mistreated
Finally he says remember those in prison and those who are mistreated (v. 3). The final response this morning, from last week’s sermon is that we remember those who are in prison and we remember, we pray for those who are mistreated. Love, eat, pray. We are to pray for prisoners. We are to pray for the persecuted. We need to think about this first in general and then specifically. First, in general we should minister to those in prison and those who are mistreated, regardless of why they are in prison or why they are mistreated. Christians have historically been those who care for the downcast. We protect those who cannot protect themselves – inside the womb and outside the womb. We are a refuge for degenerates because that’s who we are. We should be praying for and visiting those who are in prison. Writing them letters, doing ministry. Jesus says that at the judgment one of the questions that he’s going to ask is “why didn’t you visit me when I was in prison?” What would my answer be to that question right now? We’ve had members of this body, who at times have been incarcerated, our brothers and sisters. We are to remember them. And he says we’re not just, in a self-righteous kind of way, “Oh poor prisoners, let’s take time from our non-prison busy schedules and go pity them.” He says to remember those who are in prison as though you’re in prison with them. Think about what it would be like to be in their shoes and love them accordingly. You know why? Because the truth is we all deserve hell. If you don’t believe that, you don’t believe the gospel. If you believe the gospel, you believe that Jesus is going to return to shake the creation, the church is going to remain, and the only reasonable response is to remember those who are in prison and those who are mistreated, in general.
Even in a more specific way, the Holy Spirit is calling us to remember those who are imprisoned and those who are persecuted because of the gospel. Because of the gospel, those who are in prison and those who are being persecuted, because of the gospel. Now, again we live in a safe country right now, in terms of religious persecution, but there are those who are persecuted in emotional and psychological kind of way, just like Peter writes in 1st and 2nd Peter. There are people, I know for a fact, there are people sitting in this room right now, whose families are persecuting them because they are following Jesus. I know that is true. That happens. That happens where we are. Are we remembering them as if it is happening to us? Because we are in the body. You are in the church. When you stub your toe, your whole body feels it. Man, when you hurt your back, any of you hurt your back? That is the center and that is the core, you can’t compartmentalize that. You are in the body. Remember those who are mistreated because of the gospel! In your body and even more so around the world, don’t hide in an American Christian bubble where we’re all safe. There are brothers and sisters around the world and throughout history who have been persecuted and imprisoned for their allegiance to King Jesus. Pray for them. Remember them. The Apostle Paul instructed the church to remember his chains. It is the only reasonable response to the end of the world.
The reason that the Christian response to the end of the world is love, eat, pray, is because we actually believe in a love, eat, pray, kind of gospel. We follow King Jesus who loved his people so much that he died for them. We follow King Jesus who lived, and ate, and served among filth like us. We follow King Jesus who remembers those in prison and those persecuted because he was wrongly tried and executed for us. Church, King Jesus is coming again. Because that is true, we have to love the brothers, we have to show hospitality, and we have to remember those who are mistreated and those who are in prison. It is the only reasonable response to the end of the world and we’re not allowed to say “no.”