Jesus told his disciples that welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry, and visiting the sick were acts of kindness to the Son of Man (Matt 10: 40-42). The writer of Hebrews, after reminding the newly established church of the many heroes of the tradition, went on to insist that they should always extend hospitality to those beyond the boundaries of the community. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:3).
Susanna Longacre was living in Chester County, PA in the early 1780′s during the closing years of the American Revolution. The worst years of the war had passed, and rumors were circulating that a peace treaty between the colonies and the British was about to be signed. One spring day in 1783, Susanna’s husband, Jacob, was away on business, leaving her in company of an 8 or 9 yr old girl; perhaps one of her granddaughters. While she worked, Susanna heard a knock at the door. She was used to this sort of interruption, she later said, since her home was located along a well-traveled public road to Philadelphia and people often stopped to ask for directions or for something to eat.
When she opened the door that fateful morning, she saw four tired-looking men. They identified themselves as British soldiers who were hungry, thirsty, and lost. So by her home-she invited them into the kitchen and set out food and drinks. When they had finished, the soldiers thanked her for the food and asked directions to the next town. Susanna saw them to the door, assuming that this was the end of her encounter with them.
But the next day the men reappeared, this time not as British soldiers, but as soldiers of the Revolutionary army who has come to arrest her. In truth, they were not British soldiers but American spies traveling about the countryside, trying to expose local farmers who were willing to assist the enemy. The evidence was clear; Susanna was arrested, quickly convicted, and sentenced to pay a heavy fine of 150 Pounds. Or, if she was unable to pay the fine, the tribunal ordered that she receive 117 lashes “on her bare back at the public post.
Susanna and her husband were distraught. They appealed the sentence as too harsh for a 70-yr-old woman. Moreover, in her appeal she insisted that she had treated the visitors no differently than any other wayfarers who knocked on her door. In a petition to the tribunal, she stated her “act of hospitality corresponded with her general conduct for many years past.”
So many times we hear political activist, politicians spell out how God’s way is rooted in the virtue of the American Spirit or that one political party holds the value of God’s Kingdom more than the other. In truth, God’s Kingdom is not from here and is no respecter to nations, political systems and/or political parties. In most cases, it runs counter to a countries goal.
In Church, we have this fairytale like dream that hospitality is some feel-good action that leans oneself to do good to good people. There are hospitality rooms in Church. There are Hospitality Committees that give food to families grieving a loss, providing presents to a newborn, and passing out donuts in Churches for newcomers. All this falls short of what God demands from us.
The story above shows that in God’s Kingdom, hospitality is an act that can put you at odds with ruling authorities. Giving food and loving on your enemy isn’t just a nice bumper sticker, most countries would consider it treason. All the while, the Church considers it honorable.
I’m afraid in today’s time; Susanna would be marked as an evildoer by some American Christians. She could be that person who feels led to break US sanctions and go over to Iran to minister to the lost. Or, she might break through the Israeli’s Army to help Muslims in the West Bank or Gaza by bringing food, clothes, and the Word of God. To the State, she might be deemed as aiding and abetting terrorist. But in truth, she is just living out The Great Commission.
God’s policy to show hospitality to our enemy does not go hand-in-hand with man’s political policy. Man’s policy wants to create guns for protection and war machines to keep the enemy away while God’s policy for hospitality is to carry the cross and invite the enemy home. Man’s policy places the uncertainty of the future in his own hands to control its outcome, while God’s policy of hospitality places control in the hands of the Creator.
Susanna is a great example that life of hospitality is more than just helping a fellow Church member….It is entertaining the angels in all places on earth while going against the rulers of this world.