Years ago I read a book by Karen Mains called Open Heart Open Home. As I recall, it was a book about using your home as a place of ministry through hospitality. I never felt that I had the gift of hospitality. I don’t cook well. I don’t feel gifted in setting a beautiful table or giving parties. But, after reading a quote by Max Lucado, I realize that I have been more gifted than I thought. Max Lucado wrote in Outlive Your Life, “It’s no accident that hospitality and hospital come from the same Latin word, for they both lead to the same result: healing. When you open your door to someone, you are sending this message: ‘You matter to me and to God.’ But what your guest hears is, ‘I’m worth the effort.’”
Years ago my friend, Marilyn (who does have the hospitality gift) and I started praying that our homes would be safe sanctuaries. By that I meant that my home would be a safe place for women to come and be mentored, counseled, prayed for, led to the Lord, taught about the Lord, and ministered to in any way needed. I also wanted it to be a safe sanctuary for my family, a place where we could all feel safe to share our lives; a place of peace; a place where we could be recharged from the stresses of the world; a place where love and forgiveness reigned. Although there were times when my home didn’t live up to the prayer, I knew that it was God’s will to fulfill my dream. I have continued to pray for my home to be a safe sanctuary even today. In the past it has even housed women who are in the process of leaving abusive relationships. Many have said that our home has a feeling of peace. I know that that is because God is welcome here.
In Ex. 25:8 the Lord told Moses, “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.” He then gave the Israelites the plans for the tabernacle and its furnishings. The plan was that the Lord would dwell in the center of them while they were in the wilderness. Later, when Solomon dedicated the temple he built “fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple.” (2 Chron. 7:1) Once again God showed that he wanted to dwell with his people. It was not until Jesus’ salvation work on the cross that his people had the opportunity to receive the Holy Spirit living within them – God living in the center of us. Like the Tabernacle and the Temple of Old, people now could become the dwelling place of God.
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? (I Cor. 3:16)
After salvation our body becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit. This means that not only our home but our very selves can become a safe sanctuary for others. This opened a new understanding to me. I couldn’t take my home everywhere I went, but, if my body housed the very spirit of God and He could make me into a safe place for others to come to for ministry, then God could touch the lives of others everywhere I went. What a powerful concept!
This does require a desire for holiness. 2 Corinthians 6:16b-7:1 says,
As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
Just as a good hostess would not invite someone to their home if it was dirty and messy, we don’t want to minister to others with unrepentance on our part. I’m not saying that we have to be perfect. What I’m trying to say is that our behavior and appearance should show respect for God and for those we are attempting to minister to. First, we must recognize that we do house the Holy Spirit and need to ask the Lord what we might need to change about ourselves to make us available for his use. Then we need to ask for forgiveness for anything He shows us and make every effort to allow Him to work in us to transform us into better vessels of His glory. This is a kind of window cleaning that allows His light to shine and draw others to Himself.
Second, we need to open our hearts, to soften our hearts to both those outside and inside the Kingdom of God. Ministry is needed by the saved and unsaved alike. We need to allow the Lord to speak to us about how we might minister in love toward our neighbors. Then we need to be available to go where the Holy Spirit leads, speak when the Holy Spirit says speak, listen when the Holy Spirit says listen, reach out in loving kindness when compassion is called for, be slow to anger and quick to forgive, and abound in love and faithfulness. This is God’s example to us. (Ex. 34:6-7) If we strive to behave like Him, we can become a peaceful safe sanctuary for others so they can see God. God in us, the hope of glory!
“Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary
Pure and holy, tried and true
With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living
Sanctuary for you.”
Music and lyrics by Randy Scruggs and John Thompson