“Never let brotherly love fail, nor refuse to extend your hospitality to strangers”. Hebrews 13:1, 2 (Phillips)
For twenty years, I kept house in an African city. It was easy to adapt to the cultural norm that we provide an ‘open house’ for friends and neighbors, colleagues from work and ministry relationships. At one time our African neighbors to the north were visibly wealthy and the neighboring families to the west, behind our house, lived in one room dwellings. These were without indoor plumbing or cooking facilities, lighted by a single electric bulb dangling from the center of the ceiling. Our home reflected a lifestyle somewhere between these two.
More than once a guest, when leaving, said something like, “I sensed so much love in your home.” Those who were not Christians were experiencing the love of Jesus without realizing this. “Be present in our home, dear Lord; be here and everywhere adored,” was the prayer of our hearts.
Why don’t Americans more often provide hospitality or entertain visitors in their homes? This is in contrast to the experiences one finds in many countries where the doors of homes swing wide open, and hospitality is a joyous affair. Relocating to California, in the late eighties, I soon realized that an ‘open house’ was a realtor’s event, not a Christian lifestyle. I learned that often homes were closed to outsiders because the heads of the households feared they might not measure up to someone else’s expectations. They were somehow embarrassed by the suitability of their houses.
Perhaps a day is coming when all of us will share freely with those around us like our brothers and sisters in faraway lands. But, why not start right now? Sit down with your kids and brainstorm ways you could work together to make your home a welcoming place. Perhaps you are already the ones to provide the venue for extended family celebrations. Even young children can contribute to the team work needed to make this possible.
Many missionaries credit their meeting missionary guests in their parents’ home for the earliest call of God on their lives to follow in cross-cultural ministry. If visits from missionary families are not possible, how about inviting one of your church’s pastors and his family to share a meal with you? This would be a great opportunity if he has growing children in his family, too. In both cases, children benefit.
Think about adopting a single in your faith community’s membership. Develop a relationship with someone who no longer has family nearby…a believer who never married, a widow or widower, a single parent and her kids. This may not bring angels into your home, but your guests will bring God’s blessings in abundance.
However humble our homes may be, they are gifts that our Heavenly Father delights to see us share with others. Why not draw your whole family into the process and develop a plan that works for you to establish an ‘open house’ policy? You may, indeed, find that you entertain an angel or two. We did!
“Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee; God of glory, God of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, Opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness, Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, Fill us with the light of day.”
Henry van Dyke