Season After Pentecost: The Epistle Passage – Good teachings from Paul

Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:1 -2)

The writer of Hebrews (attributed to Paul) gives his listeners good advice about living a Christian life. One of the hallmarks of a Christian life to be kind and generous not only to those you know, but those you do not know. And those that you may not know of, unless you asked about them and were concerned.

Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.” (Verse 3)

For the early church it was not beyond reason to think that those they knew, and felt close to, might be in prison and might be tortured. Being a Christian was not without risks, and could be brutally punished. Paul would know these things, having once been Saul.

Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” (Verse 4)

Then Paul sort of, to my way of thinking, digresses a bit. I am not sure why marriage as a practice was mentioned here. But I am sure Paul had a good reason; and note, beloved reader, in this portion of scripture Paul does not define marriage, but asks that it be honored. So let us not place more on/in the passage than what is there.

Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” So we can say with confidence,

The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?” (Verses 5 to 6)

Then, as now, the accumulation of wealth, financial resources/possession and influence was a common pursuit; and regard was often given to those with the most and not necessarily those who lived the more authentic Christian life. Going from one social strata to another was not often heard of, so one’s position in life at birth would probably be the same one at one’s passing. Paul tells his readers not to be afraid or concerned about such realities. The Lord does not honor such things, but helps those whose lives are stressed and strained; however, one must not expect that help to be assistance to a more affluent way of life! And if there was any question as to how to live . . .

Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” (Verse 7)

This final verse might be one that we modern readers should take special note of. While life circumstances and perspectives may change and evolve . . .

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Verse 8)

Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Verses 15-16)

If in Paul’s time when the expectation was that Jesus would return soon and so worldly concerns should not have been held tightly, how more so is it a struggle and sacrifice today to share and to good to others when it means having less for one’s self. And with that thought, I will close. Selah!

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About Carole Boshart

I have two blogs on WordPress. "A Simple Desire" which is based on the daily "Sips of Scripture" published and sent out by Third Way Cafe. "Pondering From the Pacific" is based on my reflections on the world - sometimes religious/spiritual, and sometimes not so much.

5 thoughts on “Season After Pentecost: The Epistle Passage – Good teachings from Paul

  1. rwwilson147 says:

    Hi Carole,
    I appreciate your reflections on scripture, picking from the lectionary as you do, and need the constant reminders of the many things God speaks to us today through his word.
    I suspect you may be aware that not many scholars positively attribute to Paul the letter to the Hebrews. It has been traditionally, but not so much recently.
    I was first prompted to reply when I read your comment:

    “Then Paul sort of, to my way of thinking, digresses a bit. I am not sure why marriage as a practice was mentioned here. But I am sure Paul had a good reason; and note, beloved reader, in this portion of scripture Paul does not define marriage, but asks that it me honored. So let us not place more on/in the passage than what is there.

    about not knowing why… In the context of a non-Jewish, which is to say pagan culture, much like that predominates in at least the Western world, there were no prevalent specific sexual morals. Christian, by contrast, were widely recognized as being a people that were not inclined to “sleep around,” or behave promiscuously–they were following the teaching of Jesus and the apostles who were following the sexual morals of the Old Covenant Law. Regarding marriage Jesus and the apostles confirmed the patterns of behavior prescribed and proscribed by the Word of God as received; except Jesus tightened up the expectations explicitly regarding monogamy being between one man and one woman, regarding fidelity being essential for one’s heart and mind and desire. Paul didn’t have to define marriage as between a man and a woman because there was ambiguity about what marriage was to be among Jews, nor among Christian teachers–the idea that marriage might be other than that was (and should be now) unthinkable. Avoiding what would have been implicit in the text for any educated Jew or Christian then, or suggesting that we today shouldn’t put “more on/in the passage than what is there” is an implicit denial of historical reality–and historical denial is universally not a good thing.

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  2. Carole Boshart says:

    Whether it was Paul who wrote the letter, or someone under Paul’s direction, or even someone who wrote in Paul’s name – it is good to be mindful that the letter was written to a certain people at a certain time for a certain reason. And undeniably written with understandings that were common to the time. Therefore honoring marriage was meant to be an instruction to honor the marriage that was most common at the time and the one held in the highest regard by the writer.
    In our modern world the definitions of marriage are undergoing change, and not everyone agrees on what that definition should be. What seems most clear in the passage is that marriage as a covenant relationship should be honored. And since the writer of Hebrews felt it necessary to mention it I suspect in the writer’s mind marriage, at that time and place, might not have been honored as the writer thought it should. And that is all I am willing to laden this text with.
    It is always interesting to me what my readers pick up and out of what I write. I suspect my readers are very diverse in their beliefs. And if it seems that I tread lightly on some topics, it is because I honor each person’s right to believe as they sincerely and authentically are led. Shalom.

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  3. rwwilson147 says:

    So then, following your line of reasoning: since the letter to the Hebrews “was written to a certain people at a certain time for a certain reason” but in our times hospitality to strangers is rather suspect, because they might be terrorists or illegal aliens, we should avoid asserting the validity of what the NT author exhorted us to do? Psssha! entertaining angels, preposterous; we know that angels don’t really exist anyway, and our culture surely doesn’t expect us to entertain even the idea, right? Carole, what is good for the topical goose must surely good for the ethical gander, right? Either you take the whole of God’s word as applying to you and us today or you don’t–but don’t presume to know which parts (of the New Covenant canon) are applicable and which aren’t. It just doesn’t make sense theologically or spiritually.

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  4. Carole Boshart says:

    You assume a little too much. I am all in favor of entertaining all who come to my literal and figurative door. While they may be angels in disguise, I entertain them not for that reason but because we are to show compassion to all. And let us not assume either that what Paul (or who ever wrote under Paul’s name) would say to those recipient’s of those letters is the same thing that would be written to us. And one more assumption, if you will, that good people of good conscience can differ on how to act out God’s word. I see many types of Christians who differ on small and large matters. Some differences can be addressed and worked on now. Others will need to wait until we sit at God/Christ’s feet. Two of the tasks that should consume us it to live in such a way that we have a place at God/Christ’s feet and to extend to all people the love, compassion, care, mercy, and grace that Jesus unquestionably taught to his disciples and all the disciples that came after them. Shalom!

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    • rwwilson147 says:

      Hummm, I don’t think that I’m assuming too much, since I was posing a hypothetical line of reasoning parallel to your justification for “waffling” on the nature of marriage. Your reasoning could as reasonably be applied to the whole of the text–and to the whole of scripture. To sit at Christ’s feet (metaphorically and spiritually now) implies an acceptance of his teaching, which includes teaching on the nature of marriage (explicitly understood to be between and man and a woman). Those who reject this teaching aren’t willing to sit at his feet and learn from him but intellectually and spiritually get up and walk out when he teaches this. As proclaimed by Peter in Acts 3:22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ Take heed of the word of God and don’t worry about how people who read your blog are going feel if you do.

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