2 Timothy 1:15-18
A Courageous Hospitality
No one knows how he or she will respond when persecution comes. One of the controversies of the early Church was what to do with those who recanted the faith (including bishops who had even handed over the Scriptures) but then wanted to come back into the Church after the persecution was over. Some said they should not be allowed back after having renounced the faith and had reasonable arguments; after all, how could one look at those who had lost loved ones or had endured burns and other tortures for the faith while allowing others back into the Church who had forsworn such suffering for the sake of the One who suffered for them? Well, the Church came down on the side of forgiveness, the reason being that the Church could not turn away those who with tears and mourning came to the doors of the Church in repentance. It is known as the Donatist controversy or schism from the fourth century.
Well, when Paul was arrested and sent off to Rome, he writes that “all who are in Asia turned away from me”; moreover, among them were Phygelus and Hermogenes, whose forsaking of Paul was especially painful to the Apostle as he names them. We cannot know exactly what happened. Surely Paul is exaggerating when he says “all”; when one is hurt and perhaps downcast, it is easy to lapse into hyperbole. But we may surmise that when many of these knew of Paul’s arrest, rather than come to his aid, they chose to stand back out of fear of being counted as associates of the Apostle. But we mustn’t point fingers. How many times have we failed to come to someone’s aid who was bullied for fear that we would be next. It is hard to face a firing squad. We must pray for the day when we shall be called upon to stand beside our brother or sister in the flames, and I fear it shall be sooner than later.
On the other hand we have Onesiphorus. He “refreshed” Paul often, meaning that he visited and perhaps brought decent food or provided for other needs; indeed, he even searched for Paul and found him when he arrived in Rome. He was not “ashamed” of Paul chains, meaning that Onesiphorus would throw caution to the wind to minister to the Apostle’s needs. This is real hospitality—hospitality that does not wait to be asked but takes the initiative, fills the need, and does so despite the possible consequences. This is hospitality with an edge; it’s called, “Courage!” And whether we shall be Onesiphorus or the two former when the time comes depends on preparation and discipleship in the here and now.