By Lilly Million.
I’ll never forget the first time I came to Christ Church Midrand nearly 5 years ago, we got invited to the home of a family whom we have now become very close to. However that whole day I remember sitting in their home, eating, chatting and marvelling at their 1 year old daughter who could say “awesome”, wondering why they had invited us over at all. I was waiting for them to make a presentation or make some sort of a request, to get down to business, but it never came. I had had a great time yes, but felt like I had been left hanging and as me and my then husband-to-be drove out, I turned and asked him, “What was all that for?”
Growing up in my tiny family of 3, visitors was a bad word to me. Visitors meant I was going to be inconvenienced – I would have to wake up extra early, clean the whole house before they arrived and watch my mom slave over a hot stove. Once they did and all the awkward pleasantries were exchanged I would have to stay in my room with my sister (if there were no other distant cousins around) so as to not eavesdrop on the conversation of the grownups. It meant a whole Saturday where my home was hijacked. If someone stayed over, for a night or heaven forbid a whole week, then it meant my room. My whole room with my posters and my walls and all my stuff. Visitors never came often, perhaps twice a month and when they did, I hated it. I felt the whole thing to be uncomfortable, and very unnecessary.
The call to be hospitable.
I hadn’t realised how precious about my space I was (am). However being drawn into true Christian community, this problem was exposed because this type of community calls us to do the opposite. It is evident in the scriptures that Jesus’ ministry was about people and spending time with them. An example of this is where Jesus is invited into Martha’s home and her sister Mary sits at his feet listening to his teaching (Luke 10:28). What a privilege that must have been. Another example is when Jesus meets Zacchaeus he invites himself to stay at his house. The scriptures describe how Zacchaeus “hurried and came down and received him joyfully”- Luke 19: 1-10. Throughout the book of Acts and in his letters, the Apostle Paul mentions various people who housed him and gave him provision during all his missional work. Finally, in Romans 12:13 we receive the instruction quite directly “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” The Lord wants us to share our homes, to be other people centred.
It is in our homes where we exhale, where we truly live. Where we undo tight pants and suffocating ties and say what is really on our minds. Truth be told, more often than not, every other space in life we are on duty, whether at school or at work, where most conversations are short and superficial but it is in our homes where on a deeper level, we experience “real life on life”. So naturally it is easy to fall into the trap of shutting up all the doors and drawing the black-out curtains over the windows to shut the world out. However when we do that, how are we growing in community? How are we serving in and being part of the body of Christ? How are we reaching the lost and when we are feeling lost ourselves, how can anyone reach us? Yes Jesus himself took time away to be alone but If that’s the kind of behaviour we engage in most of the time, how are we truly being Christ-like.
Personally most of my growth as a Christian and what it means to live as one, came from being in the home of that family I told you about in paragraph one every week. On good and bad days, living and witnessing everyday Christian life. Through that my family, my family has grown and has extended beyond our difference in blood and even race.
“This is God’s house”
Another great friend whom I call my “really cool aunt” tells the story of how when she bought her home she dedicated to God. Being a single woman, she purchased a 3 bedroom home many years ago till this day, on any given weekend, it is busy with grown-ups and children going in and out, having birthdays and dinners and braais and arguments. And one or two odd people who needed a place to stay for a few days. I have watched her do that with her space which I am sure isn’t easy as I have watched her lose it when the people became too much. However, the purpose for her home has remained the same – for God to use it for the benefit of more than just herself. And that has been amazing to see to watch. I myself have benefitted many times from her hospitality even on days when the world became too much and I just needed a place to go to for a few hours. I am so grateful for that. I have learned so much.
Hospitality isn’t easy and doesn’t come naturally for all of us, including me, however I am sure most of us have benefitted from someone showing hospitality to us. So why not do the same, for the sake of living out the gospel in our lives?
What does that mean?
It means if we stand up and say we are believers in Christ. If we say that what Christ has done in our lives is greater than anything we can achieve or possess on this earth, then that should reflect in how we treat our stuff, and our homes. To be willing to meet the need when someone needs a couch, a bed or maybe just a meal. And even if they don’t need it, to be willing to offer it. To be willing to show our true selves in environments, share our lives, the good, the bad, the ugly. To be in true community and to recognise what true family really is, a family we have gained through the love Christ showed as which we ought to show each other.