From there he went up to Beer-sheba. And that very night the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham; do not be afraid, for I am with you and will bless you and make your offspring numerous for my servant Abraham’s sake.” So he built an altar there, called on the name of the Lord, and pitched his tent there. And there Isaac’s servants dug a well.
Some Sayings of Jesus1
Jesus said to his disciples, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.”
For the most part, homes are made, not found. It is the result of every one of us having unique wants and needs, and the very small chance that we will be able to find those things. Typically one of two things occurs. Either 1) We change our needs and wants to match our surroundings better, i.e. adapt to our surroundings, or 2) we change our surroundings to fit our wants and needs. The experience of “home” does not occur without sacrifice and work.
Home is part of God’s plan for us, a very big part in fact. God created a garden home for Adam and Eve in Genesis 1-2. In Genesis 3, their punishment for disobeying God was getting kicked out of that home. In Genesis 4, Cain’s punishment for killing his brother Abel was that he would be a wanderer and never have a home. Home is an essential part of who we are.
Isaac found home after a long journey in the place where God met him and blessed him. Those four powerful words “Do not be afraid.” would shape his own life and generations after him. The place we are not afraid is the place we make our home.
We seek home and we are willing to fight for our home if necessary. It is a sacred thing to us. But there are rules to living in it and keeping it. These rules, for Christians in particular, have to do with maintaining a relationship with God and with each other. First, Jesus reminds us that we live with others and it is our responsibility to teach them the truth. Anyone who lies to others, especially those younger in the faith, or no Christians at all, is not acting in accordance to God’s will. Setting others up to fail is not to be tolerated. Failing ourselves is one thing, but trying to entice others to fall is unacceptable. We are to be stepping blocks, not stumbling blocks.
What do we do when we or others mess up around us? Jesus tells us that we have to forgive. The only two requirements Jesus gives for staying in Christian community is to repent of wrongdoing and to forgive others when they repent as well. This Christian community is to create a tension within our lives that actively pulls us away from the rest of the world, the same way home always draws us back. For that to happen though, we have to follow both of those foundational rules. If we do not repent of wrongdoing, but tolerate it within ourselves and others, home loses safety and sanctity and soon ceases to be home at all. If we fail to forgive, home quickly loses its attraction, and while we may have fond memories and sentiments of it, we are no longer allowed there once we mess up. And we all mess up. Again, without forgiveness, it really ceases to be home.
The best Christian communities are not made of perfect people. They are made of sinners who know they cannot fully repent on their own, so they seek the help of others who will encourage them, rather than cause them to stumble further. These Christian communities are building heavenly homes here in our broken world.
Where do you consider home to be?
What makes that place truly home for you?
How are you helping to share that home with others?
- (Mt 18:6–9; Mk 9:42–48) ↩