Have you ever visited an American Embassy while traveling in a foreign country?
You can't miss it: Old Glory flaps proudly in the overseas air. As you walk through the gates, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and other national hero paintings welcome you "home." It's familiar, and it's also safe. Once on the embassy's soil, you are governed by the laws of your home country.
If you were traveling, you'd head to the American Embassy for help; the staff are there to ensure American citizens are protected and cared for fairly and appropriately in a faraway land. What a comfort to be cared for by such a kind embassy.
Did you know that your home is to be an embassy too?
In this weary and wavering land, Paul exhorts us to be ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). That isn't just a command for when we're in the workplace or out running errands. It's a definition of who God has designed us to be.
And that makes your home an embassy.
We belong to another time, another place, another King
Do you realize that your home may be one of your best opportunities to reach and influence people for Christ? So many people today are longing for a place where they are loved and encouraged. A place where they feel comfortable and not judged. Your home can be that place.
Yet too often we wait to invite others into our home—until the rooms are clean, a meal is ready, the children are well-behaved, or we have free time. We must remember that our homes do not belong to us. They are given to us by God to steward well for His purposes. Instead of waiting for the right moment to entertain, we need to expect God to use our homes to put Him on display in the "dailyness" of life to anyone who enters.
Your home is an embassy of the kingdom of heaven in this world where we temporarily dwell. Though you are American, you are first and foremost a follower of Jesus Christ, a child of the King. We really belong to another time, another place, another King. While some days it's hard to focus on the eternal and invisible, it's more important than ever to root ourselves in a security that will last forever.
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"Your home is an embassy of the kingdom of heaven in this world where we temporarily dwell."
Just like the American Embassy waves the flag to declare safety and comfort within, we need signs and sounds and recipes and attitudes that declare the haven of our homes as an Embassy of the King. When the UPS man delivers, when neighbors stroll the streets, when guests are invited over, we want them to know that we aren't just another family. We are a family who belongs to Yahweh, and are committed to using our home, lives, and resources to make Him known.
Here are five ways to make your home this kind of embassy:
1. Practice hospitality. Simple hospitality goes a long way in our modern world. Create the space to allow international students, a transitioning family, a youth intern, out of town friends, or even total strangers a place to stay as needed (check out couchsurfers.com or AirBNB.com for some ways to broaden your horizons on those to whom you show hospitality). Hospitality shows guests much more than generous and friendly treatment; your kindness ultimately shows them Jesus.
Consider Dave and Lida, empty nesters who own a four-bedroom home. They keep their extra bedrooms clean and ready to be filled with whoever might need them. Their town is known for a certain type of medical treatment that families travel across the country for. Dave and Lida heard of a patient who was traveling frequently to the local treatment center, so they offered the patient and his family a free stay in their home for the duration of his treatments. They haven't cured his sickness or paid off his medical bills, but they've given him shelter, food, rides, friendship—home—in the middle of very difficult times.
2. Love your neighbors. Here's a test: You get home from a long day of work, pull into the garage, and put your car in park. Then what? Do you immediately hit that garage door button to close the door? Sounds silly, but what if you left it open?
Are you making room and time to say hello to those living around you? Instead of sitting in front of the TV after dinner, take a slow stroll down your street. Say hello to everyone you pass.
Don't hide behind your backyard fence. Let your kids play in the driveway and front yard too; invite the neighbor kids over to play in your yard. Make friends with those living on your street. Trade lawn responsibilities when someone is out of town, collect mail, roll their trashcan out to the curb.
One family, new to the neighborhood, hosted a cul-de-sac cookout when they moved onto their street. It was so much fun that their neighborhood continued with Bunco night, summer cookouts, Halloween game night, and even a neighborhood carnival.
Loving your neighbors can be so easy because you really do life next door to each other. The possibilities are endless. Commit to doing life together.
3. Keep an open-door policy for anyone who needs a listening ear. I'm inspired by a woman I saw in an online video who sees her home as an embassy. She says she is always prepared for anyone who might stop by. She sees her home as a hideaway any time of day or night for anyone in need. Some friends and family call ahead to schedule their visits; others drop by unannounced when the day gets too long and too hard without the support of a friend. The homeowner claims that the drop-ins are the best visits because she knows how dire the need is and she cannot fake and fluff everything before the visitor arrives. That is where authentic connection and encouragement play out. Fully unprepared for these visits, she must rely solely on the Holy Spirit's leading, as she listens and consoles her friend.
Maybe you leave your mornings open and unscheduled after the kids are off to school. Maybe you could keep a pitcher of tea always ready to be poured. Maybe it's a nook in your house set up with two conversation chairs. Consider ways that you can intentionally create space in your busyness to be available for a friend who needs a listening ear and a comrade to pray with.
4. Decorate with meaningful truth. Deuteronomy 6 instructs believers to keep God's words and commands ever before us: "You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." Essentially, you need signage that tells other people who your house belongs to. Ever Thine Home®, FamilyLife's holiday and home collection, was birthed for this purpose.
As women we want our homes to be beautiful and warm places to nurture our families. But as believers we know we need more than simply beauty on our walls; we need meaningful truth displayed all around our homes. The versatile pieces created by Ever Thine Home help you to believe beautifully, even in the messy monotony of home life. Instead of an abstract art piece, hang a plaque that declares, "The Lord is my strength and my shield. In him my heart trusts and I am helped" (Psalm 28:7).
But the decorations are not just for visitors. Might they be a declaration to us too, as homeowners, as citizens of America—but even more as citizens of the King.
Display the Embassy plaque in your entryway so that seeing the declaration reminds you that, at the end of a tiring day as a stranger in a foreign land, you can breathe a sigh of relief. You're coming home to a place of safety and refuge, a place warmed and permeated by the presence of our true King. You need visual pieces that shout to you and your guests: Here's who you are. Don't forget. I'm your God; you're my people.
5. Host small-group gatherings. Sure, the church and community buildings have plenty of meeting space, but consider inviting friends into your home instead. Relationships will grow immensely and authentically with even a few hours spent together at someone's house.
Rob and Teresa had this in mind when they shopped for a home. They purchased one with a large, open living room and bought a smart flat screen for streaming video studies, photos, and YouTube to enhance small-group experiences. They use their home for community, especially for pre-marital mentoring with young couples. Instead of meeting at a restaurant or coffee shop, each week of mentoring begins with a home-cooked meal in their home. The young couples find enrichment from the study but also from seeing them interact transparently in their home.
Try it. Next time you're planning a gathering, birthday party, or family event, take the initiative to open your home. It doesn't mean you have to do all the work; you can still ask others to bring a dish or help clean up. It simply means you're willing to initiate authentic relationships with those on the guest list.
No perfect formula
Your home is an embassy of the King. There are countless ways to love those around you in the setting of your home, but there's not a perfect formula. Even the smallest strides toward declaring your home a representation and refuge that represents our King will honor the One who has provided your family with a residence able to serve Him through serving others.
Copyright © 2016 by FamilyLife. All right reserved.
More From Barbara
These beautiful accents for your home were created by Barbara Rainey and Ever Thine Home®. Click on the images below to purchase or visit EverThineHome.com to view the entire holiday and home collection from FamilyLife.