What Have They Seen in Your House?
Perhaps we have reached a stage when, thanks be to the Lord, our lives are (at least for now) going well: family is fine, work is fine, health and finances are, too. Or maybe not? Maybe your home, for now, is in pain, turmoil? Either way, when someone comes to visit your home, like emissaries from Babylon who visited King Hezekiah, what answer could be given to the question that the prophet Isaiah later asked the king: “ ‘What have they seen in your house?’ ” (Isa. 39:4, NKJV).
What have people seen in your house? What have heavenly angels seen? What kind of spirit permeates our residences? Can one “smell” the scent of prayer? Is there kindness, generosity, love, or tension, anger, resentfulness, bitterness, and discord? Will someone who’s there walk away thinking Jesus is in this home?
These are important questions for all of us to ask ourselves regarding the kind of home that we have created. This week we will look at some of the issues that can make for a wonderful home life, despite the inevitable tensions and struggles that homes today face.
* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, June 22.
Scripture points out that the messengers were interested in the miraculous recovery of King Hezekiah. However, Hezekiah seems to have been silent about his healing experience. He didn’t emphasize the things that would have opened the hearts of these inquiring ambassadors to the knowledge of the true God. The contrast between his gratitude for being healed in chapter 38 and his silence about it in chapter 39 is striking. “God left him to test him.” This state visit was a most significant occasion; yet, there is no record of Hezekiah seeking special guidance about it in prayer from prophets or from priests. Nor did God intervene. Alone, out of the public eye, with no consultation with spiritual advisers, Hezekiah apparently let the work of God in his life and in the life of his nation recede from his mind. The intent of the historian in 2 Chronicles 32:31 may have been to show how easily God’s blessing can be taken for granted and how prone the recipients of His mercy are to becoming self-sufficient.
Every visit to the homes of Christians is an opportunity for people to meet followers of Christ.
Few visitors are likely to open conversation about spiritual things. Christians must find ways that are sensitive and appropriate to the occasion to share the good news.
Christians are not called to show off their material prosperity or accomplishments, though they may recognize these as blessings from God. They are called to “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Pet. 2:9, NIV), or, to use Hezekiah’s experience as a symbol, to declare that they were dying, but Christ has healed them: they were dead in sin, and Christ resurrected them and seated them in heavenly places (Eph. 2:4–6).
The most natural first recipients of our gospel-sharing endeavors are the people in our households. There is no more important mission field than this.
An enthusiastic report. Andrew went beyond mere reporting; he arranged for his brother, Simon, to meet Jesus. An enthusiastic report about Jesus and an introduction to Him as a person—what a simple formula for sharing the gospel with relatives in our homes! After the introduction Andrew stepped back. From then on, Jesus and Peter had a relationship of their own.
Helping children to a place of faith. Children in a home can often be overlooked as fitting recipients of gospel-sharing efforts. Parents mistakenly assume children will simply absorb family spirituality. This must not be taken for granted. While children and young people learn from the modeling they observe, it also is true that these younger members of the Lord’s family need individual attention and opportunity to be personally introduced to Him. Deuteronomy 6 is insistent on this point: Attention must be given to the most effective kind of religious education. Regular spiritual habits of personal and family worship are to be encouraged in the home. Time and earnest efforts must be put forth on behalf of children and youth.
Ruth saw Naomi at the lowest of moments: when she tried to push her daughter-in-law away and when, angry and depressed, she lashed out against God as she recounted her losses (Ruth 1:15, 20, 21). No more eloquent testimony than Ruth’s can be given to show that youth can meet and make a commitment to a perfect God, even when introduced to Him by an imperfect parent.
The blessing of being a Christian partner. In 1 Corinthians Paul responds to converts’ concerns that staying married to an unbelieving spouse might be offensive to God or bring defilement upon themselves and their children. Not so, says Paul. The sacred state of marriage and its intimacies are to continue after a partner’s conversion. The presence of one Christian partner “sanctifies” the other partner and the couple’s children. The word sanctifies should be understood in the sense that unbelieving spouses come into contact with the blessings of grace through living with their Christian partners.
Heartrending as it is, the unbelieving partner may decide to abandon the marriage. Though consequences will be serious, the merciful word of our God—who always upholds human freedom of choice—is “let him do so.” The believer “is not bound in such circumstances” (1 Cor. 7:15, NIV). Called to live in peace. The clear preference of the Word of God is that despite the challenges of a spiritually divided home, a way might be found for the peace of Christ to reign there. The hope is to keep the marriage intact, to give evidence of the triumph of the gospel in the midst of difficulty, and to promote the comfort of the partner with whom the believer is one flesh, though he or she be unbelieving.
Loving-kindness, unwavering fidelity, humble service, and winsome witness on the part of the believer create the greatest likelihood of winning the non-Christian spouse. Submission in a Christian marriage arises out of reverence for Christ (compare Eph. 5:21). When a spouse relates with Christian submission to an unbelieving partner, the first allegiance is always to Christ. Faithfulness to the claims of God on one’s life does not require a spouse to suffer abuse at the hands of a violent partner.
The New Testament emphasis on imitation acknowledges the important role of modeling in the learning process. People tend to become like whom or what they watch. This principle applies to relationships generally and especially in the home, where imitation is common. There children imitate their parents and siblings; married partners often imitate one another. This concept provides an important clue to how couples and families can bear Christian witness to other couples and families.
The power of social influence. We witness from our homes when we provide opportunities for others to observe us and to share in our home experience in some way. Many simply have no good example of marriage or family relationships to follow. In our homes they may see how the spirit of Jesus makes a difference. “Social influence,” wrote Ellen White, “is a wonderful power. We can use it if we will as a means of helping those about us.”—The Ministry of Healing, p. 354.
As married couples invite other couples for meals, fellowship, or Bible study, or when they attend a marital growth program together, the visitors see a model. The display of mutuality, affirmation, communication, conflict resolution, and accommodation of differences testifies of family life in Christ.
Follow believers who follow Christ. All human examples are flawed; however, the witness of the Christian home is not about modeling absolute perfection. The New Testament notion of imitation is a call for individuals to follow believers who follow Christ. The idea is that individuals will grasp Christian faith as they see it demonstrated in the lives of others who are as human and fallible as they are.
Hospitality meets another person’s basic needs for rest, food, and fellowship. It is a tangible expression of self-giving love. Jesus attached theological significance to hospitality when He taught that feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty were acts of service done to Him (Matt. 25:34–40). Using one’s home for ministry may range from simply inviting neighbors to a meal to the radical hospitality of lending a room to an abuse victim. It may involve simple friendliness, an opportunity to offer prayer with someone, or the conducting of Bible studies. True hospitality springs from the hearts of those who have been touched by God’s love and want to express their love in words and actions.
Families sometimes complain that they lack the facilities, the time, and/or the energy to offer hospitality. Others feel awkward, unskilled, and unsure about reaching beyond what is familiar in order to associate with unbelievers. Some wish to avoid the complications to their lives that may arise from becoming involved with others. Many contemporary families confuse hospitality and entertaining.
The power of the home in evangelism. “Far more powerful than any sermon that can be preached is the influence of a true home upon human hearts and lives. . . .
“Our sphere of influence may seem narrow, our ability small, our opportunities few, our acquirements limited; yet wonderful possibilities are ours through a faithful use of the opportunities of our own homes.”—Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, pp. 352, 355.