The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners so that no one could swim off and escape. But the centurion kept them from carrying out their plan because he wanted to save Paul, so he ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. The rest were to follow, some on planks and some on debris from the ship. In this way, all got safely to land. Safely ashore, we then learned that the island was called Malta. The local people showed us extraordinary kindness, for they lit a fire and took us all in, since rain was falling and it was cold. (Acts 27:42-28:2, HCSB)
Last week we left our hero, Paul, headed for shipwreck. Apparently, it wasn’t his first. He told the Corinthians he had been shipwrecked three times (see 2 Cor. 11:25), and those happened before this trip.
As Paul prophesied, everyone onboard survived the harrowing adventure. Once on shore, the castaways were warmly welcomed by the Maltese. Their warm island welcome after the cold, rainy night on the Adriatic – their exceptional hospitality – got them mentioned in the Bible.
Hospitality is a lost art in our world today – we’re just too busy. But the Bible both welcomes and demands it of God’s people.
Perhaps you remember in Genesis 18 when Abraham was visited by angels (though he thought they were mortals). He welcomed them, fed them well, gave them a place to rest from the heat, and washed their feet. They blessed him with a prophecy of Sarah’s coming pregnancy. When Simon the Pharisee failed to show Jesus common Hebrew hospitality, the sinful woman did. Simon was chastised for his lack of care, but she was blessed by our Lord. Paul understood the importance of hospitality as, throughout his letters, he encourages the church to be welcoming to outsiders and to traveling ministers.
Finally, the author of Hebrews offers us this great piece of advice: Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2, HCSB). Just as important, though not quite as exciting as entertaining angels, is the command: So reach out and welcome one another to God’s glory. Jesus did it; now you do it! (Romans 15:7, The Message).
Some have a divine gift of hospitality (1 Peter 4:9-10), it is a requirement for elders in the church (1 Tim.3:2), but as Christians we are ALL called to be warm, welcoming, hospitable folk – inside the church and out.
Look for an opportunity to show God’s love to someone this week…you never know, it might be an angel in disguise. Maybe not…but it WILL come with God’s blessing.