Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
Chapter 13 is largely made up of exhortations, and from these, we can fill in any blanks we might have in our understanding of chapter 12. Notice how it begins: “Keep on loving…” As we saw at the end of the last chapter, this is really what the book is trying to teach us, to keep on doing the things we are supposed to do as Christians, no matter what happens in this life. Obviously, this should have had a powerful impact on the original recipients of the letter who were having such a rough time in Rome, but let’s not think it doesn’t apply in our time as well. Loving one another is one of the commands of Jesus that is repeated over and over again in the New Testament, and frankly it deserves more than lip service from us!
Showing hospitality to strangers is another common theme in the New Testament; have you ever wondered about it? Does it mean showing hospitality to dangerous persons on the run from the police? Does it mean only for other believers? Different people are led in different ways here… and for the record, I wouldn’t advise harboring fugitives from the law… I can only suggest that we all follow the Lord’s leading in this. Some, especially those who have the spiritual gift of hospitality, will be led more than others. Certainly, however, those who habitually refuse hospitality might not seem like people who are sharing God’s love very freely.
Taking this verse in a broader cultural context sheds a better light on its meaning. In that context, it would seem most likely that the author is referring to people who are believers, such as those sent from another church congregation. A travelling preacher or messengers might qualify more than just anyone who looks lost…
Finally, those in prison. I doubt the author is talking about random thieves and other violent criminals. It seems more likely to me that he is referring to people being held in prison for their faith, as were many at the time of his writing. this would fit more clearly into the first verse and its injunction to keep on loving one another.
In short, these three verses are all about sharing the love of Christ with others!