Love and sanctity. 13:1-6
The author of Hebrews ends his letter by dealing with the issue of Christian living. In the passage before us he addresses the issue of love: love as it relates to the home, the Christian fellowship and society at large.
v1. The writer's first exhortation to his readers is that they keep on loving one another. It is very easy for love to wane, but they are to keep at it. Brotherly love is a central virtue in the Christian life and is probably best understood in the terms of compassion, rather than a warm feeling toward another person.
v2. The second exhortation is for a recommitment to show hospitality toward travelling believers, probably believers who exercise a pastoral ministry of teaching or prophecy. Such hospitality often has unexpected rewards, as Abraham and Sarah discovered when they inadvertently entertained three divine messengers. Our guests may not be angels, but as messengers from God, a blessing from God may come by way of their visit.
v3. The exhortation to remember those in prison is certainly not just an exhortation to remember. This is all about considering those who are suffering for the faith, and acting to do all that is possible to help them in their time of need. In practical terms, it's about seeing that they don't starve to death in prison, forgotten and abandoned by their brothers and sisters. The consideration we are to show stems from the solidarity we share as fellow believers.
v4. Another matter of personal morality that requires attention is that of sexual immorality, in particular, adultery. The marriage bed should be kept esteemed, undefiled by the intrusion of a third person. Sexual relations image the depth of the union possible with God in Christ and so should not be polluted by either adultery, or degraded casual sex. Such behavior prompts divine wrath, a wrath that is turned aside by the perfect sacrifice of Christ. Sexual sin is serious.
v5. In discussions on covetousness, both chastity and contentment are the desired outcome. Both illicit sex and the love of things, seem to go hand in had, and so it is interesting that our author, like Paul, maintains a link between the two. Our author is not calling for simplicity, he is not an exponent of the simple-life movement, he is calling for disengagement, a stepping back from an overreliance on worldly wealth. The reason a believer can step back from an overreliance on things, is because God supports us during our journey to glory. This is affirmed in the quote from Deuteronomy 31:6, 8. As the Lord supported Israel in their journey to the promised land, so he will support us. Of course, we must be very careful not to jump to conclusions and define this support as "health, wealth and happiness." The Lord supports us as he sees fit.
v6. The consequence of accepting that the Lord is on our side, prompts a courageous response in the face of life's many challenges. With the psalmist, we can face these challenges with a fearless resolve and this because we undertake our journey with the Lord on our side, Ps.118:6.
It is very typical for a Biblical letter to end up with ethical exhortations and the writer of Hebrews follows this standard practice. The exhortations represent some of the issues we struggle with day by day:
i] Brotherly love, or better compassion. A willingness to forgive and accept a brother or sister with whom we have difficulties.
ii] Hospitality, or better being welcoming. A willingness to welcome the ministry of others, particularly the Word-ministry exercised in our local church.
iii] Caring for suffering brothers and sisters. A willingness to support the persecuted in the suffering church throughout the world.
iv] Sexual propriety. A willingness to resist the temptation to dishonor the marital bed, or engage in illicit sex.
v] Materialism. A willingness to set aside an overreliance on worldly wealth. This is not an exhortation to simple living, but rather an encouragement to disengage from a dependence on the things of this world.
In verse six, Psalm 118:6 is quoted. This verse serves as a response to the exhortations, particularly the exhortation to "be content with what you have". Our writer tells us that by recognizing that the Lord is beside us in our life's journey, and even carrying us through the worst of times, then we get a bit of backbone. We can be fearless in the face of life's trials, for in the end, there is little this age can do to us. The worst it can do is take our life, which in eternal terms, is but a grain of sand on the beach of eternity.
It's easy to be debilitated by fear, but better to be fearless in the knowledge that Jesus stands with us throughout life's journey. Jesus doesn't necessarily make life easier for us, or even meet our needs, but he does stand with us. This fact aids contentment, it aids sexual propriety and stiffens our resolve to stand with the suffering church, it affirms ministry and the love of the unlovely. So, "I will not be afraid."
Consider each of the five ethical rules and how they apply today.
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