Part X of our series on Opening Your Home
We’ve covered a lot of ground these past couple of weeks as we’ve explored how God has opened his home to us and how we should do the same for others. Perhaps most surprisingly, we learned that sometimes, this Work of Mercy takes a passive role by letting others open their homes to us – and by extension Christ.
So let’s talk today about what it looks like to “do the word” of Opening Your Home. Here are three ideas that you can pray about:
1. Consider undertaking a week long Luke 10-style mission trip. Spend the preceding weeks in prayer, asking the Lord where he wants to send you. Resolve to take only the barest of essentials, as specified by Jesus in the Luke 10 passage.
When we did a Luke 10-style trip several years ago when we lived in Houston, Texas, I and Mrs. Foley and a group of four others took no change of clothes, no wallet, no money—just a cell phone (to enable our frightened families and curious church members to check in on us, and to enable us to report each day on what happened), a car, my driver’s license (to take us to Beaumont, Texas, where we prayerfully felt the Lord was leading us), and a video camera, to record what happened.
In that week, we never missed a meal; we never went without a shower; we never had to wear dirty clothes; and, at the end of the week, God gave us two homes—and a tithe of $638 to bring back to the church in Houston that had sent us out!
2. Every year, increase the amount you are giving away by half a percentage point (i.e., go from giving 10% to giving 10.5% the next year, 11% the year following, and so on).
I learned this from Doc Haggstrom of Billings, MT. When he married his wife, Evvie, as a young man, he found that because she did not grow up in a Christian home, she was completely puzzled by the idea of tithing.
So he said to her, “Well, do you think we should give away any of our money?”
And she said, “Well, of course! I’m not selfish, you know.”
So they agreed to start by giving away 5% of their income, and each year thereafter, they asked, “Was God faithful to meet our needs this year?” If he was (and he always was), they would increase their giving by half a percentage point. By the time Doc died in his late 80’s (Evvie had passed away a few years prior), they were giving away the majority of their income. Doing this causes us to be less reliant on our own resources and more reliant on God’s resources, given through the hospitality of others.
Learning how to be hosted is a real challenge, especially for those of us from rich nations or backgrounds. Here, the opportunity exists for us to learn hospitality from our global neighbors:
3. Rather than going on short-term missions trips to paint houses or teach Vacation Bible Schools, journey humbly as ambassadors-in-training and seek out global Christian neighbors known especially for opening their homes and warmly welcoming strangers.
We can learn how to be guests and hosts at the feet of those whose hospitality hasn’t been infected by Western notions of privacy and the pale imitations of hospitality one encounters in hotels, hospitals, and even Western homes. There’s a former missionary named Michele Hershberger who writes:
One of the things I enjoyed most about Uganda was the opportunity to walk on meandering paths through gardens, up and down hills, and long streams. Walking was almost synonymous with conversing because invariably I would meet someone along the path or at work in their garden and we would talk.
One afternoon I came across my friend Ruth, busy pulling weeds. After chatting a while, she took me to one corner of her garden to see what she had grown. She was excited because she had just planted eggplants for the first time and they were just beginning to bear; two lovely fruits dangled from the step.
Later that evening two unexpected visitors arrived to spend the night at my home. Word soon spread that we had guests, and before long Ruth appeared at the kitchen door. In her hands were the two eggplants. She gave them to me, saying, “Please prepare these for your friends tonight.”
I wanted to say, “No! No! You must keep your eggplant. We have plenty of food, and you have so little.” But I could not do that. I could not deny Ruth the opportunity to give of her literal first fruits. She was giving so joyously.
The height of Western missionary folly and utter disdain for the gospel may be moving into a new environment and seeking to act as a host or self-sufficient guest to the people who live there. As Jesus revealed in his own incarnation, the pinnacle of missionary wisdom—and Christian ambassadorship—is to voluntarily empty ourselves of any provision or capacity to host, or even the capacity to care for ourselves—just like Jesus did—and instead place ourselves entirely in the hands and hospitality of those we visit.
We need to grow our self-identity. We are not only those who do good to our enemies; we are also those who place ourselves in the hands of others in order to permit them to do good to us, and, thus, to our God.
What other ideas would you recommend?