The Challenge: House or Home?
How do you turn a house into a home? We’re not talking interior design, crafting parties or cooking lessons. We’re talking about the essential differences between a space where people live and a space where people find life.
A house has walls, floors, and rooms. It is a physical structure of function and utility. It is cement and pipes and wood and wiring, all void of understanding and emotion.
But the word “home," on the other hand, connotes a place of belonging, acceptance, and comfort. A home is a place where family members and friends can make mistakes, be challenged by truth, and experience the warmth that comes with grace, forgiveness, and redemption.
It’s a space equipped for the development of the soul, the shaping of the spirit, and the expansion of the mind. It's a place for reflection and quiet and solitude — a respite from the pressures of the world. And it’s also a place of gathering, of communion, and of memory making.
Noted historian David Patterson encouraged people to think of the home as having the highest calling:
"…cultural restoration entails the restoration of what is most high, most dear, most enduring. And the ground for all such things is the home. The home is the place where our names are first uttered with love and therefore where we first discover that we mean something. It is the site where both human beings and human values first make their appearance in the world. It is the center from which we define and understand the nature of everything we encounter in the world. The home, then, is not one thing among many in a world of things; nor is it merely the product of a culture. Rather, the world of things derives its sense, and a culture its significance, from their relationship to the home.”
There are plenty of fancy, well-decorated houses that, even for all their worldly charms and comforts, are cold and sterile. And there are plenty of modest homes where visitors feel like royalty. So what is it that makes the difference?
The Hope: Heart of Hospitality
“Hospitality” is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but it is, without exception, the driving force of every thriving home.
The original meaning of “hospitality" is simply the quality of showing loving-kindness and generosity to strangers. But the biblical understanding of hospitality is even richer than its original definition.
One of the most well known Bible passages that mentions hospitality is found in 1 Peter. The passage opens with, "Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything” (1 Peter 4:7-8, MSG).
Before it even mentions hospitality, it lays the groundwork. When the author says, “Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up," he is referring, in part, to the work of salvation and sanctification. Jesus won our salvation on the cross and one day we will experience the full fruits of that salvation — we will be made in every respect like Christ. In the meantime, God is working in and through us to make Earth look a little more like Heaven. And our hospitality — rooted in prayer and godly love — is one of the ways he does that.
The next verse says, "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9, NIV). When it says “one another” it is referring not only to foreigners and strangers, or members of the church who may visit your home, but to everyone within the body — including those who may already live in your home. We should have hearts of hospitality, most of all, toward our family members — those who aren’t just visiting for the weekend, who see us day-in and day-out, who we can’t possibly keep spick-and-span sinks and shiny smiles for. We should train our hearts to serve them above ourselves, and should place upmost value on making sure they feel welcomed, loved, and truly at home.
The passage closes with, “Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything — encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!" (1 Peter 4:10-11, MSG).
The point of hospitality is to share your gifts — whatever it is you’re good at, whatever material comforts you have to offer, your time, your self — freely with everyone God places in your path. We’re meant to offer our lives to one another to continually remind each other that Jesus offered up his life for us.
A home that is a place of rest and restoration, of true community and growth is, quite literally, a glimpse of heaven. All goodness originates from God, and Heaven is a perfect place for the sole reason that God’s presence — his goodness — is not diluted by sin. Our homes on earth will never be perfect, but we can choose to allow God to work in them. And rather than being disappointed when we fail or go through hard times, we can rejoice knowing that our true home is in heaven.
In the words of author Shauna Niequist, who wrote the book, Bread & Wine, "This is what I want you to do: I want you to tell someone you love them, and dinner’s at six. I want you to throw open your front door and welcome the people you love into the inevitable mess with hugs and laughter…Gather the people you love around your table and feed them with love and honesty and creativity. Feed them with your hands and the flavors and smells that remind you of home and beauty and the best stories you’ve ever heard, the best stories you’ve ever lived…”