Brokenhearted Theology, California, Ramblings

Angels and Strangers

I don’t know what I believe about angels, but I think I believe in angels.

I was reading Hebrews 13 the other day and was today reminded of one of the first two verses in that crazy chapter.

1 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

At the Kairos weekly gathering this past Sunday, Greg introduced the season of Lent using the story of the temptation of Christ in the wilderness found in Luke 4.  He mentioned the words of C.S. Lewis from The Screwtape Letters – “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. they themselves are equally pleased by both errors.

I think the same is true of the more “positive” aspects of spiritual reality – like the angels mentioned in Hebrews 13:2.  We tend to either have an over-spiritualized sense of reality or an over-materialized sense of reality.  I think the balance lies somewhere in the middle, whether you are discussing demons or angels.

I was walking near a university campus today and was drawn into a conversation with a woman sitting next to the sidewalk.  As I walked by, she asked if I was a spiritual person and if I wouldn’t mind sitting down and praying with her.  She said people had been walking by all morning but had a sense – a push from God, is what she said – to talk to me specifically.  She was in a rough spot in regards to health, family, finances, etc. and wanted to pray with someone…and that person was me.

I have two voices in my mind that start talking loudly in situations like this: the voice of cynicism and the voice of gullibility (negative)/compassion (positive).  I am cynical about giving money or assistance (and even time and conversation) to people on the street.  All of the common stereotypes come to mind about how the money will be used, questions of whether I have any ability to offer assistance that will truly help the situation, etc.  Yet, I also have a gullible/compassionate side.  I have had several experiences in the past with “interesting characters” who have ended up being an incredible blessing and encouragement to me (though I would not have expected that at first sight).  In light of these experiences, I try to approach people with humility and without the cynical assumptions that come so easily for me.

So, back to this woman – this friend of mine- who I met today.  I don’t really know what to make of the whole situation.  As I listened to her talk and share her story with me, Hebrews 13:2 came to mind.  What would it mean to mistake an angel for a stranger?  Do I even believe in angels? Is this conversation going to end up being about money?  Am I being taken advantage of?

In the Christian tradition, an angel (in both Hebrew and Greek) is somewhat interchangeable with a messenger.  As I sat there, I wondered how the situation might change if I considered that this woman – with a cast on her ankle and an empty shopping cart by her side – might be a messenger.  Not that she was necessarily an angel in the theological or spiritual “harp and halo” sense, but that she might carry a message that I needed to hear – that through my interaction and encounter with her, I might leave with a new (or renewed) understanding of something about my life or about our world.

When our conversation ended, I think (hope) we both left encouraged.  Reflecting on the entire situation leads me to wonder how things would be different if I always interacted with strangers in such a way that left room for the chance that they might carry a message I need to hear – that they might be “angelic” in this sense.  So, my gullible/compassion side won out today, and for that I am grateful.

I don’t know what I believe about angels, but I think I believe in angels.


2 thoughts on “Angels and Strangers

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