The Single Woman’s Home: A Mission Field
- Wednesday, December 13, 2006
This Greek word in 1 Peter 4:9 for “hospitality” is philoxenos, which means “fond of guests.” Not fond of Martha Stewart ambition, a Town & Country room, or a gourmet meal. Fond of guests – even those who arrive a half-hour early! Though home design shows are everywhere on cable TV now, and our houses are getting bigger while the occupants are getting fewer, our culture is about entertainment, not hospitality. That’s why I selected the opening illustration that I did, and wrote: “If you’ve ever tried entertaining as a single woman, you’ve no doubt felt that same wave of panic moments before your guests arrive.” I suspect this is universal, but my anxiety is not due to my concern about the people coming. It’s because I’m worried about my presentation. I want the kitchen to be spotless, the candles to be lit, the flatware to be gleaming, the music to be inviting, and the aromas to be enticing. The reason I shooed my guests away that cold December evening was because I wasn’t ready for the inspection of my presentation. I was overcommitted because I wanted to impress them with an elaborate four-course meal from Bon Appetit. I wanted to entertain them, but I wasn’t acting like I was fond of them.
Cultivating a love for the home means acquiring practical skills and training so that you can intentionally make your home a mission field, not a museum nor a crash pad. If you’re single and live by yourself, this means all your ministry will be to those who live outside your house. If you’re single and have roommates, this means you minister to your roommates and to those outside your home. If you’re a parent, this means your mission field is first in your home to your children and then to those outside your home. It takes some effort and forethought to do this, especially if you’re only home a few hours out of every day. Romans 12:13 tells us to “seek to show hospitality.” The NIV translates it as “practice hospitality.” But the original Greek is better rendered “strive for” or “pursue” hospitality. Again, as the author of "The Hospitality Commands" writes:
Thus we are to actively pursue, promote, and aspire to hospitality. We are to think about it, plan for it, prepare for it, pray about it, and seek opportunities to do it. In short, the Romans 12 passage teaches that all Christians are to pursue the practice of hospitality. … Brothers and sisters, allow me to ask you the following questions. Do you eagerly pursue opportunities to practice hospitality, or is it something that you do only on holidays and during special events? Do you understand the important role that hospitality has within the Christian community? Do you see the relationship between brotherly love and hospitality? Beloved, only when we understand that the Spirit of God commands us to practice hospitality will we be adequately motivated to sacrificially open our homes to others.
If that sounds overwhelming, perhaps this little thought will encourage you: Some of the most hospitable women in Scripture were single. Consider the example of Martha and Mary. Their home in the modest village of Bethany was the site of several Bible accounts. We know of at least three occasions when Jesus visited their home – the famous account where Martha is frazzled, the time Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and when He ate at their home just six days before His final Passover. As one commentator notes: “… after Jesus left His natural home at the age of thirty to enter upon His public ministry we do not read of Him returning to it for rest and relaxation. It was to the warm, hospitable home at Bethany to which He retired, for He loved the three who lived in it, Martha, Mary and Lazarus – in this order – which is something we do not read concerning His own brothers and sisters according to the flesh.” Another outstanding example was Lydia (Acts 16:14). She was the first European convert to Christianity, and her home was presumably the gateway to the rest of the continent.
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