Please turn to Hebrews 13:1-3. When we come to the beginning of chapter 13, the focus shifts from why we do what we do in the Christian life to what we do and how we are supposed to do it. Specifically, the author of Hebrews tells us how to live as a sacrifice of praise to God or how to offer sacrifices pleasing to God. In John 13:34, Jesus says to his disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” The command for love to the brethren was central to Jesus’ teaching. And as the author of Hebrews begins to explain what it means to live a life that is a sacrifice of praise to God, he begins with love. First, in verse 1, the author of Hebrews gives us a command to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. Then, in verse 2, he says that we are to show hospitality to strangers. Finally, in verse 3, he tells us to show love to those who are imprisoned and mistreated. So you have a general command to love the brethren and then two specific applications of that command.

I. The Command to Love. 

In Hebrews 13:1, the author of Hebrews says, “Let brotherly love continue.”  What does that mean?  It means that we are to be deliberate in cultivating and in showing true Christian love to our brothers and sisters in Christ. In other words, we are to live as if our fellow believers are family, and we are to love them like they are family because they are. “Let brotherly love continue,” is an exhortation which is echoed throughout the New Testament. I have already alluded to John 13:34 where Jesus calls His disciples to love one another as He has loved them. But over and over in the New Testament, it is emphasized that believers are now family members. You cannot be a Christian and not be the brother or sister of anybody else who is a Christian. And in this passage, the author is saying, “I want you to live and love like you know that you are actually related to these people in the pews who are not like you, who are different from you, who come from places and backgrounds and circumstances in life that are different from you. They are now your family and you are to love them with the same kind of an intensity that a functional family displays because they are your brothers and sisters. And my friends, that is hard to do. Just like family can get on one another’s nerves, church family can get on one another’s nerves. I think it is so interesting in this passage, he says, “let brotherly love continue.”  Thus, the author is saying “I know that you have already started loving the brethren but you need to keep on loving one another.” And the keeping on of doing that is the hard thing, because over time we step on one another’s toes, we let one another down, we irritate one another, we disagree with one another. However, the author says, “Here is the first thing that I want you to do to live as a sacrifice of praise to God – do not stop loving one another. Let your brotherly love continue.”

II. Cultivate and Practice Hospitality. 

In Hebrews 13:2, the author of Hebrews says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” What is he saying? He is saying that we are to be deliberate in cultivating and practicing hospitality to those who are passing through. In other words, we are to view ourselves as hosts appointed by God for the comfort of others. I think he has especially in mind traveling believers here. This exhortation would have been very practical because in the first century, inns were dirty, dangerous, and immoral places. Therefore, those conditions made hospitality of believers welcoming people into their home especially important during that time in history. However, it is just as important for us today to show hospitality to others. We have ample opportunities to show hospitality to other Christians passing through and also to non-believers in our homes and workplaces. This passage reminds me of the Scottish Christians who took me into their homes when I was living in Edinburgh, Scotland. I fondly recall Sabbaths that were filled with worship and praise of the Almighty God, fellowship with other believers, deeds of mercy and necessity, and rest and refreshment. What that experience of hospitality did for my heart in those days is incalculable. In this passage, the author of Hebrews is encouraging us here to be deliberate in showing hospitality to others in our lives.    

III. Deliberately Minister to Those Imprisoned and Mistreated.

In Hebrews 13:3, the author of Hebrews says, “Remember those in prison as though in prison with them and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.”  In other words, he is telling us to be deliberate in cultivating a concern for and presence with and ministry to those who are imprisoned and mistreated. Now I think he especially has in mind believers who have been imprisoned and who are being mistreated, although certainly by application and extension, this verse extends to all kinds of prison ministry and all kinds of ministry to people who have been mistreated. All around this world there are more and more persecuted and mistreated and imprisoned Christians. There are people who have lost their jobs and their businesses simply because they want to obey the Bible. There are believers who have lost their lives because of their faith in Jesus Christ. This verse reminds us that we cannot be indifferent to believers who are imprisoned and mistreated. We must stand with them. Think of your fellow Christians as your family and stand with them in those places. It is all an extension of love. This whole passage is designed to call us to a comprehensive and practical expression of love in the Christian church. That is how you live as a sacrifice of praise to God. May God cultivate in us and continue in us a genuine and robust and practical love for our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ so that they will say, “Behold, how they love one another and glorify our Father who is in heaven.”