Online Bible Commentary
Continue Brotherly Love
Hebrews 13:1 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (NIV)
The writer of the book of Hebrews continues on the subject of exhorting the first century Hebrew Christians to obedient living. In this passage, he exhorts them to live obediently in their social life.
The literal translation of the Greek for verse one is: “The brotherly love let remain.” The word translated “brotherly love” is the word “philadelphia”. The city of Philadelphia is called the city of brotherly love.
According to Strong’s Bible Concordance, “philadelphia” is from the Greek word “phileo”, which means to love as a friend. It is a love chiefly of the heart. It refers to the love of natural siblings, and to the love among believers.
In contrast, “agape” love is a wider love, embracing especially the judgment and deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty, and propriety. It is a love of affection or benevolence. It is a love that is chiefly of the head, or will. “Agape” is to love in the social or moral sense. It is unconditional love, and the word for love that is most used in the New Testament.
So, the writer is calling for us to exhibit friendship love to our brothers and sisters in Christ, (v. 1). This is important to know because it explains the meaning of this passage. The principles in this passage can be applied to all people we encounter, and should. But in this passage, it refers to our relations just with other Christians.
We are exhorted to show “hospitality to strangers” (v. 2a). First century Christians were being persecuted at every turn. Because of their faith, they were denied jobs and blackballed by society, which consisted mostly of Jews. Because of this, many were homeless, and needed to be housed by their brothers and sisters in Christ. This was a call to Christians to offer their homes to other believers in need.
When we offer our homes to other Christians we not only help them, but it can also be a blessing for us and our families. I know from personal experience that we can remember, and be blessed by, their testimonies for eternity.
We may even be blessed by angels. “Some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (v. 2b). For example, Abraham was hospitable to three strangers, two angels and the preincarnate Christ Himself. He was blessed with the news from the Lord that he would have a son, Jacob, the following year (Gen. 18:1-15). The Lord also confided in him the judgment that He would bring upon Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sin of homosexuality (Gen. 18:16-33). It is always possible that when we are hospitable we may be showing hospitality to angels without even knowing it.
We are also exhorted to “continue to remember those in prison” (v. 3a). Many first century Christians were imprisoned for their faith. We are called to remember them “as if you were together with them in prison” (v. 3b). Christians are always subject to being imprisoned for their faith. Today, many Christians around the world are imprisoned because of their faith. We are to remember them through our visits, gifts, support, and, most of all, through our prayers.
Finally, we are called to continue to remember “those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (v. 3c). Christians have always been mistreated because of their faith. It could happen to any of us at any time. It is happening more and more frequently in the United States, We are to help all Christians that are mistreated, just as if it was we who are suffering. Some day it may very well be us.
As Christians, we are to continue to exhibit friendship love to fellow Christians, our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to love everybody, but not everybody is our friend. Some intend to do us harm. Therefore, we should especially focus our love on our fellow Christians. We should always be there for them. We should open our homes to them. We should help them if they are mistreated, or even imprisoned, for their faith. We should continue to offer them brotherly love.