One of the things that is commonly derided about suburbia is the isolationism that is so prevalent. Although we want greater connection and community with our neighbors, in reality we live disconnected lives; isolated from our neighbors.
I think there are a number of causes for this sense of isolation that exists in suburbia, but as I was reading some other blogs about missional living (by the way, we encourage you not to limit you blog reading just to Roots Run Deep – there are many excellent blogs that have been having the “missional living” discussion for a long time – in fact, Joe will be providing a top ten list of missional blogs on Friday – be looking for that)…anyways, as I was reading through some of those other blogs, I ran across the idea that we need to consider what strengths exist in suburbia in order to use those strengths to attack the issue of isolation.
One of the strengths (upsides) of suburbia is housing. Most of us live in homes that would be considered mansions by 99% of the world. Whether you are in a one bedroom apartment or a single family home, there is a good chance that the size of your home would be jaw-dropping for those living in the inner city, or those living in the villages of rural Africa.
Sometimes we blame the suburban single-family home as one of the primary reasons for the isolation in suburbia. This may be true; however, is it possible that this object that is one of the primary reasons for our isolation could also be one of our greatest tools to combat isolation? Might we consider ways to utilize our homes to tackle the tendency towards isolation and individualism?
What I’m thinking about in particular is practicing the biblical concept of hospitality. Noah Webster’s Dictionary defines “hospitable” as:
(n.) Reception and entertainment of strangers or guests without reward, or with kind and generous liberality.
Hospitality is most certainly a biblical concept. Scriptures teach us the following about the concept of hospitality…
- it should be practiced among believers (1 John 4:9, 3 John 1:8, Romans 16:23, Romans 12:13)
- it is a requirement for church elders (1 Timothy 1:2, Titus 1:8)
- it is a characteristic of “widows in deed” (1 Timothy 5:10)
- it was an attribute for which the islanders of Malta were praised after Paul was ship-wrecked there for three months (Acts 28:7-10)
- Jesus tells us to humbly accept hospitality from others (Luke 10:7, Matt. 10:10)
- we shouldn’t neglect showing hospitality to strangers (Hebrews 13:2)
Beyond these New Testament teachings on the concept of hospitality, we also see it throughout the Old Testament. Consider:
- God’s hospitality toward Adam and Eve in the Garden. He provided for their every need and made sure that they were comfortable, and given space to enjoy Creation and their relationship with Him
- God’s commands to His people regarding strangers (see Leviticus 19:9-10, 33-34; Deuteronomy 10:18-19 as a start). The Israelites were commanded by God to provide food to strangers travelling through their lands, to love the alien living near them as if they were native born, and to follow His example in not showing partiality towards anyone, but instead giving food, shelter, and clothing to the fatherless, widows, and aliens.
- How the Israelites were recipients of hospitality. Consider the treatment Jacob and his family received when they were welcomed into Egypt during the famine. Consider the reception given to the Israelite spies by Rahab in Jericho.
But most importantly, consider Jesus’ teachings of hospitality. He
“…calls the weary to himself, feeds the hungry, mends the broken, eats with sinners and tax collectors, washes his disciples’ feet…and ultimately gives his life to cleanse us from sin, deal with our unbelief and provide a way and place for us to rest. He lives, loves, obeys, works, dies and rises again so that we might find a place of rest, renewal and recreation…ultimately so that we might be about God’s purposes – saved to be His Hospitable People” (from Missional Musings)
What can we learn from this diverse collection of Biblical teachings on the concept of hospitality, and more importantly, how can we apply them?
What if we began to recognize that our home is a resource provided by God’s sovereignty that must be stewarded just as our finances must be stewarded? What if we began to utilize our homes as tools to be employed in the Missio Dei? What if instead of being centers of isolation and individualism, our homes became outposts of hospitality and connection?
In order for this to happen, we may need to modify how we think about our time and our space. Our time is not our own, it is God’s…given to us to be stewarded in the mission of making disciples of all nations. Our space (home) is not our own, it is God’s…given to us to be stewarded for God’s kingdom purposes.
Have neighbors over for meals. Have a Christmas party at your house. Enjoy a backyard barbecue with folks in your subdivision. Have the families from your kid’s little league team over for an afternoon of watching football on TV. Look for ways to make your home a place of refuge for those needing help. Consider how to ensure that your house becomes “that house” at which the kids in the neighborhood want to come and hang out.
Susan and I haven’t exactly figured this out yet, but we’re trying. What are some ways you’ve found to be effective in stewarding your home for the Gospel? Is this a new concept to you? What barriers stand in the way of us living this out?
Here beginneth the discussion……