“Hospitality, however, seeks to minister. It says, ‘This home is not mine. It is truly a gift from my Master. I am His servant and I use it as He desires.’ Hospitality does not try to impress, but to serve.”
― Karen Burton Mains, Open Heart, Open Home
Everyone needs a place of shelter, a place for warmth, a place to take in meals, to be refreshed, to gather together with friends and husband and family. A place where there is quiet, peace, and love. A place where there is joy of the Holy Spirit and laughter and singing and closets for clothes and closets for prayer.
What is a house for? Or an apartment or a room or a dormitory or wherever the Lord has called you, in your peculiar and individual circumstances? If everything in our lives is directed there by the Lord of all things, then our homes are entrusted to us for a specific purpose.
I’ve been in homes where I have felt welcomed and homes where I’ve felt intensely uncomfortable. I’ve been in homes where the orderliness is overwhelming and the scent of cleaning solution wraps around me with a constriction that is suffocating. I’ve been in homes where the dust and disarray speak of a lack of order, a lack of caring. Our homes often reflect our lives, whether for good or for bad.
What are our homes for?
Ultimately, to bring glory to God.
Our homes are to be used for a specific purpose--To point those who the Lord brings to us, to Jesus. They are not showcases of our particular style. They are not monuments to our financial success or to our high-paying job. They are not given to us, as Karen Mains says, to “impress” our neighbor, but to humbly offer our neighbor grace, to serve our neighbor with truth and love.
There is always the temptation, as Christians to think, “Well, since ‘this world is not my home’, it doesn’t matter.” It doesn’t matter if the floor is grimy, if the table is haphazardly set, if the yard if over-run with weeds and grass overdue for cutting and no beauty to be found anywhere, only clutter and chaos.
Edith Schaeffer, co-founder of L’Abri wrote in her book The Art of Life, “Life is a work of art shaped by the subtle shades of patience and creativity, faith and truth, hope and love. And when every day activities of home and work become infused with these qualities, the hidden art that lies beneath the surface begins to shine through.”
In other words, our lives as Christians should reflect the beauty and creativity, order and discipline of the Creator. When we “put on” these traits, in imitation of our Lord, they will reflect themselves in our work (whether in the home or elsewhere) and permeate all that we do.
Edith Schaeffer was known partly for her gift of hospitality. She believed that it was important to make a guest feel loved and welcomed through the way in which she ministered creativity and beauty in her home. She practiced this philosophy through simple flower arrangements, nourishing, delicious, economic meals, and a clean, delightfully welcoming atmosphere of order and peace, of Christ within the walls of her home.
Sometimes, our homes are the very opposite of this (and I am speaking in general, not the occasional times when life and circumstances are hectic for a season). But often we continually, habitually run disorderly, jumbled homes-a reflection of our distracted 21st century busy lives. Our homes are unwelcoming, uninviting and we don’t have the time and don’t really even care to do otherwise. We have to ask ourselves-Does this attitude honor God? Are we honoring the Lord of our lives with the homes that He has given to us and what is our focus truly on—advancing ourselves in our often petty everyday interests, or His kingdom?
This thought came to my mind this week—What should our homes be? What do I want my home to be, and are the motives of my heart pure?
Because there is another attitude that we may take in the way that we view our homes, and that is, as our miniature kingdom on this earth. Our tidy, bug free, bird free, person free, pristine lawn sits touched only by a sprinkler system and the landscapers that weekly adorn it. Our furniture is so clean that the average visitor is afraid to sit on it lest he leave a smudge. There are no animals to be found, in fact, even the squirrels tiptoe nervously over the lawn. Our television and computer sit sentinel in the family room, captivating each family member accordingly. There is no sound of singing, no happy children’s voices, no praise and barely any prayer. It is a cold, clean, immaculate palace; an ode to the “American Dream.”
But our homes are for service; our voices for praise, our lawns and our living rooms to minister to our brothers and sisters in Christ and to bring the Gospel of truth and grace to our neighbors and mailman and yes, the annoying, knock-on-your-door-at the worst-time-possible petition-bearers. Every opportunity is an opportunity for the Gospel, an opportunity to share the love of Christ, whether we take it or leave it.
Again, Edith Schaeffer says, “Often one is asked, ‘How does one get children to have compassion and love for others?’ One important way is by demonstrating love and compassion in action, not just talking about it. . . . Nothing can be given in a course of study which can substitute for the day-to-day observation on the part of the children in the home of a mother or father who truly treat human beings as human, and not machines.”
A home that is cold and sterile cannot be a welcome haven to those around us. It cannot be used to minister to those around us, and isn’t ministry our calling in this life? Ministry and joy and prayer and praise to the glory of the Father.
May our homes be a sanctuary and a tribute to the Lord of grace as we seek to be the aroma of life, the sweet freshness of Christ to those around us. Not a kingdom devoted to ourselves, nor a novelty of neglect, but a shelter of beauty and hospitality and peace.
"Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality."
Romans 12:10-13 (NKJV)