Continue in brotherly love. Hebrews 13:1
God’s love is inclusive. Mine is often not. God’s love is instinctive, and He is quick to extend affection. I do not love by default and often contemplate whether or not love will be demonstrated. While ‘love one another’ sounds like an elementary message as I begin the last chapter of Hebrews, it is complicated.
This letter was written to the Jewish people who struggled to include the Gentiles in their circles. They had understood for centuries that they were God’s chosen people and now they were being called to embrace ‘foreigners’ as fellow disciples of Christ. Treating them as brothers was difficult. Perhaps they considered each one an add on instead of an equal. The offense was large enough that the author of this letter to the Hebrews included this strong reminder.
If you’ve ever moved and joined a church, you remember how it felt to be a newcomer. You came up against the old guard, perhaps, and knew that your opinions and votes didn’t matter yet. You hadn’t put in your time. You might have felt that the old timers were cliquish and slow to accept you. While it shouldn’t be like this, it is. Flawed humanity makes up the family of God. The message in today’s scripture is clear. We are all to continue in brotherly love. Even to newcomers.
Biases are numerous. They can exist in small towns as a certain resident is described as ‘someone from the wrong side of town.’ Already, love is compromised. Biases can exist in families where marriages have crossed ethnic lines. For the one who is different, there is nothing he can do to earn acceptance. He is made to feel on the outside of family fellowship. Within a region of a country, there can be prejudices. The United States has deep fracture lines and they only seem to be getting worse as angry voices define our politics.
How readily do I embrace someone who is not like me? Do I describe them to others with respect? Or do I make fun of their culture? Am I global in my vision for the spreading of the Gospel? I need to rejoice when any unbeliever responds to the call of God’s Spirit, even those hostile to me, or my family, or my country, or to Christianity in general. My love should not suffer. Jonah’s did and without Holy Spirit help, mine will too.
I still love with strings attached. Change me. Amen