From Houses to Homes
What’s in a home? Most of us who will read this article can quickly answer that question without too much thought. We’d probably begin by describing a house: walls, a roof that doesn’t leak, a functional kitchen, bedrooms where we feel safe, and a place for our children/grandchildren to play. Once we established those basics, we wouldn’t have too much problem moving to our description of a home: safe, warm, inviting, open spaces, comfortable furniture we can call our own, good food in the pantry, comfortable beds that let us rest and wake up restored, places we can be quiet in, a backyard to play in…you get the picture. I’m guessing my description wouldn’t be too far off base from your description.
Here’s the rub. You realize we, you and I, are in a huge majority with our descriptions. Most people in the world today are lucky to have a roof over their heads, much less all of the other things we described. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so incredibly grateful for my house! No way would I want to trade my dwelling for a one room pallet house with a tin roof. I’m just saying most people don’t have the option to trade up.
Why is this even a topic of concern? Because the Gospel creates shelter for people. Our hope is rooted in Jesus’ promise to go and prepare a place for us. Our vision of Heaven is constructed around permanent dwellings for all of its residents, including us. My heart absolutely breaks for the millions of people in the world without permanent shelter to call their own. Believe it or not, our small towns have a small population of homeless people. The larger the population, the larger the homeless count. And that’s just how our residents tend to see them: a count; a number. Most of the time we want to just eradicate that number; just move them to a facility that is equipped to care for them and then we can forget about them. That is not the way of the Gospel.
One of my favorite books in the Bible is found in the Old Testament. It is the book of Ruth. I love this story for many reasons, one of which is found in the ladies being brought from empty to full in just about every area of their lives. At the beginning of the book both women have lost their husbands and Naomi has lost her sons. At the end of the book Ruth has a husband and Naomi has a new son in law and a new grandson. At the beginning of the book they have a roof over their heads. At the end of the book they have a fully restored home in Bethlehem. At the beginning of the story they have no food. At the end of the story their pantry is over run. Theirs is a story of empty to full.
What happens is this: God takes two homeless ladies and puts them in the care of the nation of Israel. He established boundaries for their care with them in mind long before they were even born. He caused a man named Boaz to be raised up as a Redeemer in the community of Bethlehem. He provided Boaz with fields of grain, respect in the community, and a knowledge of the families there. All of this was established before Naomi and Ruth ever set foot back in Bethlehem. This is a story of grace.
Do you see any parallels between Ruth’s story and yours today? Do you know how close most of us are to homelessness? Do you understand a few bad business decisions could pull the roof from over your head? Do you get that a stock market failure could leave you with little more than some moldy bread to eat? Can you imagine a scenario where you have to choose between buying food and paying your house payment? Many of us live on a much higher percentage of grace to grit than we realize. Our prosperity is often much grace and a little of our own grit (when you look at what you do it may seem like the opposite, but when you really see all that God does for you the grace quotient quickly adds up!). This view of the Gospel obligates us, to some degree or another, to care for those who are homeless around the world. I say we start with our neighbors.
God, in His wisdom, has established boundaries for His people already and He calls us to step inside them. One established boundary is the foster system. It literally creates homes for children who have none. Another is encouraging our churches to partner with organizations like the East Texas Food Bank and Jenny’s Hope of Hughes Springs to provide food for people who are hungry. Another is working with our cities in satisfying all of the Angel Tree applicants at Christmas time. These are broad approaches that go a long way in making those without homes feel welcomed. Before Boaz ever considered marrying Ruth he fed her and made sure her household had enough food to last until he saw her again.
However, we cannot stop at broad approaches! Christians can never stop with one simple stroke of the brush. Once we are aware of a need we are obligated to give and work together until that need is met. That brings us to the next step. We must be willing to take these people into our homes. Maybe the individual has a roof over their heads, but no family, very little furniture, and no quiet in their house. We could offer them a relationship, a couch to sit on, and a place of solitude when they need it. These are simple gestures that mean the world to a person who has no access to them. Boaz’s story ends with him marrying Ruth. He creates a home for her! She had a house. He made her a home. Would you consider allowing a lonely, hungry, homeless person to grace your home once in a while? It would make all the difference in their lives.
This leads us to the final step. The ultimate home for us who know Jesus is the church, the Body of Christ. We find our rest, our peace, our home, and the greatest source of the love we know within the confines of the Body. The relationships that are bound together there are some of the best and strongest in the world! The world is looking for the kind of solitude and peace we enjoy on a weekly basis and they have no idea where to find it. If we cannot make room for the homeless in our churches, we will never make room for them in our homes. The lonely, down and out, brokenhearted, prisoners of the world should feel most welcome within our local Body of Christ. Those who have been squashed by the world should feel right at home when surrounded by Christ followers. Can you make sure that happens? I think so.
I challenge you to begin to press into the heart of God and discover His desires for the homeless in your community. I think you will soon discover His desire to put a roof over your head, physically and spiritually. As soon as you get a glimpse of what He has done and continues to do for you, it shouldn’t be too far of a leap to attempt the same for those around you. What do ya say? Let’s build a home where there was once just a house!