Transient? Nomadic? Vagabond on the streets? Homeless? Stranger? A widow without assistance? A child who is alone? Sick with no place to go? Dirty with no place to wash? Hungry with no food?
God is quite strong about the plight of such as these. How people react or treat others in a state of need, especially without a place to call home, gets His attention. His comments are especially scathing when widows and orphans are neglected, but similar comments can be found about treatment of strangers, those who are sick, or the neighbors in need that cross our path. Not everyone has a place where they can lay down and take a nap peacefully and safely like this little one was doing several years ago.
The Bible has many stories that relate. In this day there are numerous regions where Christians are being persecuted in ways that make them homeless or without any safe place to live or go. How do they get along? For Christians, what if such people are within your sphere of influence? What would you do?
We have been transient for several months. We have been breaking down a home, trying to make another home 400 miles away, moving, and frequently traveling to make all this happen. We have had temporary quarters several times with friends, have seen more hotels rooms than we care to remember, and have camping gear ready, because it is not so clear that we may not need it. Short-term rentals are hard to find – even in parts of the United States. Our condition, however, is mild compared to the ones I mentioned in the first paragraph. Many brothers, sisters, and children are having much larger troubles. Many have not had a home for a long time, and may never have had a secure one.
We know and love a group of children overseas that were without a home for periods of time when they were very young. Some lived under a bridge for an extended time. Others were found abandoned in bad places. Others were abused. Many were grossly neglected at young ages. There are also war-ravaged regions around the world where families or parts of families do whatever they are able to live together because conditions are so bad. For many in the US, all of this seems far away. But US history and some areas in the country today suggest that it happens here, too.
Awareness of the issue got personal one evening while overseas. We invited several of our young orphan friends to dinner. We love them dearly; so we fixed little cards with their names, had special food with little place settings around our table, and planned an evening in our little quarters for them. We all sat down, but they turned quiet and serious. Something was wrong. We asked them what it was. They explained that we, who were seated at the end of the table, were in the wrong spot. As they explained, Nanay was to be at one end, and Tatay was to be at the other. They all had a concept of family, regardless of the neglect or abandonment each one had experienced. They had very definite ideas about what they desired on this night, which was special to them. That night they were members of our home. So we quickly rearranged the table. The evening turned out to be wonderful, but I will never forget what transpired.
Years earlier I had invited a special very old person to my home in the US. I delivered food to her shack of a home about once a month, so I had gotten to know her a little bit. I had to get her from her home from the near-by mountain since she did not drive. She came with the oddest assortment of clothes I have ever seen and smelled like the pot-belly stove in her home where she lived alone. She rarely ventured out and probably even more rarely saw the inside of another home. You could tell by how she acted and smiled that her dinner in my home was a special event. I was surprised at the impact of the visit on her disposition. I had never seen her with that kind of energy and smiles.
A few years later in Uganda, I had asked to take a group of orphan children to a little nearby town for the day, rather than go with a small group of US adults to a national park. To watch those kids see and do things they had never done was all summed up by the oldest girl. That evening she made a point to stand in front of me as she used her clearest British-sounding English to say, “Thank you for a most extraordinary day!” Her smile was so big I thought she might break her jaw.
A tax collector, whose professional work was very disliked in Jesus’ day, wanted to see Jesus, but he had to climb a tree to get a look. Most folks were shocked that Jesus called him by name and invited himself to dine with the man. Something special transpired during the meal that followed. The man was rich but lonely, and God met that man’s heart, which was hungry.
Jesus reaches those without an inner sense of belonging or home. Most of us have that same need. So when Christ touches us, it does something. He is still in the business of settling the lonely heart with the love of God, and he frequently uses believers to do the same thing among those in need. As Jesus states in John, he does not leave us as orphans if we will call on him and follow him. As he says in Matthew 25 (the parable of the sheep and the goats) that he has a reasonable expectation that true believers will be his hands and feet among orphans, widows, the sick, those in prison, or strangers without a home. He has a reasonable expectation that our relationship and home in him can make our actions to assist those in need an expression of the love of God and the Gospel.
So, our personal transient period is good — a reminder that he gives us a sense of real home and a reminder of the importance of deliberate hospitality toward those with needs. That is what makes a home in a biblical sense. Little helps toward us are just as important as visits from little ones overseas, who simply need a hug at the right time.
John 14:18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (ESV)
John 14:23 “Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (ESV)