In the quiet darkness of nighttime, you hear a knock on your door. When you answer the door, the disheveled stranger standing before you asks to stay in your home for the night, offering nothing in return. You’ve never seen him before, and you don’t know how legitimate his needs are or how honest his request is.
What do you do? Do you set him up with a cozy bed and a plate of warm food, or do you turn him away? And if you turn him away, are you motivated by safety or convenience?
You might struggle to answer this question in a way that satisfies your conscience. But one Bible verse commands a specific response to welcoming strangers—with a surprising reason.
Abraham’s Angelic Visitors
In Hebrews 13, the author concludes his epistle by giving some practical Christian living instructions. Verse 2 stands out: “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” What a statement!
What would you do if three strangers showed up at your door?
The author pulled from biblical history in writing this verse. In Genesis 18, three men visited Abraham at his tent. Showing no hesitation, Abraham “ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground, and said, “My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant. Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts” (Genesis 18:2–5).
What would you do if three strangers showed up at your door? Abraham instantly offered and provided food, water, and rest. From the context of chapters 18 and 19, the three men Abraham had served were two angels and the Lord Himself. God rewarded Abraham’s hospitality by promising his wife, Sarah, would conceive a son to fulfill God’s promise to make a great nation of countless descendants from Abraham (v. 10; cf. 12:2; 15:4–5).
Lot’s Life-Changing Encounter
Following this confirmation, the two angels departed to go to Sodom, the wicked city God promised to destroy (18:22). Abraham’s nephew, Lot, likewise demonstrated great hospitality. Lot saw the two angels, appearing to be men, enter the city; quickly rose and met them; and bowed before them, saying, “Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way” (19:2). At his insistence, they followed him to his house, where he made them a feast.
Lot and his guests faced great danger when all the men of Sodom surrounded his home and demanded he bring the angels outside so they could commit perverse sexual crimes against the angels. But Lot did not drop his hospitality at the first sign of trouble. He pleaded with the mob to “not do so wickedly” (v. 7). He wrongly offered to have his daughters face the evil the men planned to carry out against the angels, but he also prioritized the safety of his guests, saying, “Do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.”
The men of the city then tried to attack Lot, but the angels supernaturally blinded the men to protect him. They urged and even led him by hand out of the city the Lord destroyed with fire and brimstone (vv. 15–16, 24). Lot’s kindness to these angel strangers led to his deliverance from destruction.
Why We Should Entertain Strangers
You might write off these angelic experiences as biblical anomalies that can’t happen today. But Hebrews 13:2 actively exhorts believers to entertain strangers with a clear reference to Abraham and Lot’s actions.
In this day and age, we invite strangers into our homes less than ever. We isolate ourselves more and open our doors to people popping in less. But the Bible teaches us as followers of Christ to embrace strangers and show hospitality over and over again, both for leaders (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8) and laypeople (Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:16; 1 Peter 4:9).
It shouldn’t be difficult for us to be willing to serve strangers—particularly knowing they may be the same ministering spirits who aid us.
Angels minister to believers (Hebrews 1:14). God graciously sends them to serve us. So it shouldn’t be difficult for us to be willing to serve strangers—particularly knowing they may be the same ministering spirits who aid us.
Yes, evil people with sinful intentions roam the earth; and we should remain vigilant for such threats. But we shouldn’t choose isolation at the expense of love and obedience to the Lord. As God gives opportunity, let’s welcome needy people into our homes and give up our comfort to provide it for others. Let’s greet them with a warm dinner, a comfortable bed, and a compassionate heart.
Remember that every encounter with a stranger is an opportunity to share the Good News of the gospel so that they might have eternal life with God and enjoy the same fellowship with His Spirit that we do. Think of your home as a mission field the way you might think of the grocery store or the doctor’s office as such. Whether it’s to encourage another believer or to bring lost souls to Himself, God might send someone to your door to accomplish His purposes.
Let Hebrews 13:2 encourage you to jump at the chance to offer hospitality to strangers! You never know how God will use you for His glory.