In my first post, I wrote about the Christian tendency to retreat from the world and how this disobeys God’s command. Today we will discuss how to build your family into an outpost for Christ in your community.
We are commanded to show hospitality to all.
Romans 12:13 and 1 Peter 2:9 both command us to show hospitality. This is not optional, and it is for all of us. God sent us to make disciples, and that only happens by entering people’s lives, allowing them into ours, and living God’s unconditional love for them.
Is it always safe? No. Does God allow us that excuse? No.
We are not foolish, however. My husband and I want our children and their friends to gravitate here. We allow the children in the neighborhood in, we feed them, and we listen to their conversations. By opening our home, we know our kids’ friends, we know their challenges, and we know their location.
As we make our homes welcoming, we still maintain our standards. This is the difference between assimilation and immersion. We do not become like our neighbors, but we enter into their lives. Doing so allows us to model for our children how to interact with the world and to give them a somewhat controlled context in which to try it themselves. Hands-on experience is essential for them to develop discernment (see through the world’s lies), spiritual muscle (humbly yet firmly share their reasons for doing/not doing something), and hospitality.
I’ve struggled to gently maintain our standards of speech and behavior without creating an oppressive atmosphere that drives the kids elsewhere. With practice I’ve grown more comfortable gently sharing our rules with statements like, “We don’t speak that way in our family. If you choose to continue to use those words, you will need to play somewhere else.” We designate certain evenings and Sunday afternoons as family time, but this is the exception, not the rule.
Unpleasant encounters become redemptive conversations. Choosing to interact with people who don’t share our values and our faith does expose our children to worldly attitudes and actions. We see these as ripe opportunities to apply the biblical perspective to very specific situations. These conversations also provide better understanding of how our children are processing what they see and hear.
This summer, I overheard a conversation between my son and a friend. The friend was describing a hurtful and inappropriate way “make girls squirm.” My son and I spent that evening talking about what the Bible says about our bodies, respecting one another, and coming to someone’s defense. I wouldn’t have had that opportunity if the boys hadn’t been in our home to begin with.
It isn’t easy. Engaging with our community can be messy, noisy, uncomfortable, and inconvenient. But God didn’t promise us comfortable, calm, tidy, or easy. We pray that as we obey His command to go and share, God will guard our children’s hearts and be glorified as we show His love to the world outside our front door.
Joy blogs at Joy In This Journey (www.joyinthisjourney.com). She credits her oldest daughter Elli (now in heaven) with forcing her out into her community. Elli’s special needs required public education, in-home help, and the expertise of hundreds of people they would never have met otherwise. You can also find her on Twitter.
I’m a Tommy Mommy and can’t wait to tell you all about it real soon!