You Also Are in the Body
by Jacob Hudgins
The Hebrew writer concludes his letter with a series of short, punchy instructions. These are intended to set priorities even though he does not elaborate on them. “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body”(Heb 13:1-3). Our connections to others are in view here—brotherly love, hospitality to strangers, and remembering those in prison.
Some Christians in this time are unfairly imprisoned, including Timothy (Heb 13:23). The writer wants us to “remember” them “as though in prison with them”(Heb 13:3). He wants us to feel so connected to them in their suffering for Christ that we picture ourselves suffering the same fate. We also should remember “those who are mistreated”(Heb 13:3), which broadens the view considerably. Mistreatment is extremely common, but we are not to wish it away. We pay attention to victims, particularly Christians who are victimized for their faith.
The reason is that “you also are in the body”(Heb 13:3). This can mean that we are in a physical body—which would say that our connection to these people is our shared humanity. While this is true, it seems to me to be less consistent with his point. We are in a spiritual body with these people—we are in Christ together.
Christians have a connection, commonality, and fellowship with one another. We do not all have the same specific experiences in our service to Jesus, but we do share the same basic struggles against sin and the world. There are people who are mistreated, imprisoned, and killed for their faith—even today—and we refuse to turn a blind eye to this just because it hasn’t happened to us. We feel with them, as though we are in prison with them, as though we experience their terror. We pray for them. We act to help in whatever ways are possible. We suffer with those who suffer because we also are in the body.
American Christians often struggle with our individualism. We like to do our own thing. Yet when we come to Christ, we are bound up in his body with other people to whom we are connected, like it or not. Let us suffer and rejoice with our brothers, since we are in Christ together.