Every day I find something remarkable about Abraham! In my quiet time today, I was startled by Abraham's hospitality. Upon further review, I may have misunderstood the Scriptures, but, then again, maybe I just had a clearer vision of the way we should treat others as we happen to cross paths.
Let me give you my first take on Genesis 18:1-8: Abraham was sitting at the door of his tent and some strangers just happened upon his dwelling. Abraham quickly ran to greet them and begged them to let him minister to their traveling bodies. He offered them water to wash their grimy feet, insisted that they sit in the shade, and instructed Sarah to get busy making some cornbread while he fired up the grill for some of the finest fillets he could offer. And this was merely "a morsel of bread." Not only did he prepare a succulent meal for his guests, he also stood close by while they ate. The only honorable reason I can imagine someone standing by watching me eat is that they want to be ready to get me another piece of that delicious cornbread. (I did grow up with two brothers, ya know.)
Ok, ok, I agree with you, I'm probably letting my mind get a little outside the boundaries of proper interpretation. As I looked again at the passage, it seems likely that Abraham believed these men were not your average, ordinary travelers. I don't know, maybe it was the whole appearing out of nowhere thing. Maybe. However, I'm not totally convinced that Abraham knew exactly who he was dealing with at first glance. Joshua didn't have a clue several hundred years later when he was visited by the Commander of the army of the Lord.
So, how should we understand Abraham's response to his guests? Is this a model for Christian hospitality?
Well, the Scriptures are not silent on the matter. There are many examples of hospitality exhibited in the Bible (Lot, Jethro, the Shunammite woman, Nehemiah, Job). As a matter of fact, not only is it expected in the Bible (Hebrews 13:2; Isaiah 58:7; Romans 12:20), it is also a qualification for eldership (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8), and commanded to all believers (Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9).
So, how do you feel when you have someone come up to you on the street and ask you for money? If we were more like Abraham, maybe they would just be saving us from having to beg them to let us help them.
I am praying that God will help us understand how blessed we are already, and that we all should be seeking to minister to our neighbor.