Four years ago, when I last carefully studied the book of Hebrews, I wrote the post "10 Signs of a Mature Christian." This post has been one of the most read post I've ever written mostly because the chapter it was written about, Hebrews 13, is one of the most straightforward in the Bible as far as answering the question, "What does a maturing Christian need to do?"
I want over the next few days to look at a few of these ten signs of a mature Christian more carefully. Today I will look at Hebrews 13:1-3 and the writer of Hebrews' urging of the readers to love each other, be hospitable and be empathetic.
"Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering." Hebrews 13:1-3
Mature Christians are:
Loving toward their local church body.
Would your local church be described as a place where you love one another? Would you be described as a person who loves others?
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34-35
Jesus said that a defining characteristic of Christians WILL be their love for one another. Now, I say that we are to be loving toward our local church body. I say this not because we are not to love Christians around the world, but rather because those near us and covenanted to us in a church are the ones with whom we get to practice these one another commands, this love is an active love. It's easy to love my brothers in India in theory, but it may require some work to love my brothers and sisters I see enough that they could annoy me.
Also, notice the writer of Hebrews says, "Keep on loving..." This means to continue and don't stop loving. Why did he/she write this? I believe because it is sometimes easy to love, but to keep on loving is a whole different animal. Enduring in our love for Jesus is often hard, how much more difficult is it at times to endure in our love for blatantly imperfect people!
Mature Christians love the local church body and don't stop doing so. Mature Christians have an enduring, familiar love for the Christians in their local church especially.
Would you describe yourself as a hospitable person? Would you describe your local church as a hospitable place?
Hospitality is an esteemed virtue from Genesis to Revelation. Abraham and Sarah were hospitable to strangers and those strangers turned out to be angels and one may have been a Christophony. Conversely, the men of Sodom were so extremely inhospitable that they wanted to rape those same angels and thus the city was destroyed. Hospitality is commanded or commended in places like: 1 Peter 4:9, Romans 12:13, Leviticus 19:34, Titus 1:8, 1 Timothy 3:2, Proverbs 31:20 and so many other places.
Hospitality is not the same as entertaining. Some of you have very neat homes and have very organized activities for your guests to do. Others of us simply say welcome, make yourself at home and don't mind the mess. There are many ways to be hospitable, but the bottom line is that a mature Christian's hospitality is the recognition that nothing we have is ours, that our things are tools to use to serve God and that the reward given to the hospitable is worth it (Matthew 25:34).
Would you describe yourself as an empathetic person? What causes your heart to break?
Mature Christians feel the heartbreak of others and do something about it despite the cost. They visit those in prison. At the time Hebrews was written Christians were being imprisoned on account of their faith. Hebrews 10:34 says that when people would visit Christians in prison the visitor's things would be confiscated. The authorities would identify Christians by seeing who would visit these poor Christians in prison and then take their belongings. Mature Christians view the treasures of Heaven as of far greater worth than the things they might lose here; they view the ability to offer encouragement to a fellow Christian as something worth risking for.
Mature Christians can put themselves in the shoes of other suffering Christians. Whether that person is suffering on account of righteousness or stupidity, they can suffer with them in empathy. Do you have the ability and soft heart to empathize with your Christian brothers and sisters around the corner or around the globe? Have you ever visited a suffering Christian to cry with them or encourage them?
We must press on toward Christian maturity. The 13th chapter of Hebrews has a lot to say to encourage us on that path. I'll look at three more signs of a mature Christian tomorrow, but examine yourself on how you're doing on these three today.