We all like to be hospitable – or at least perceived that way. So when guests arrive at our homes, we typically encourage them to “make yourself at home.” By that we mean we’d like them to feel comfortable, and if there’s anything they need, just ask.
But what if they did – they proceeded to really make themselves at home? Imagine this scenario: They march to your refrigerator, survey the contents, and start fixing a meal without clearing it with you first? Or they take a look at your living room and commence to rearrange the furniture? Or decide to tear off the wallpaper that was designed specially for your dining room?
Suppose they go into your yard and start yanking out the flowers you just planted, stating they don’t like the colors. Or they call a crew to start digging a huge hole in your backyard, since they’d really like to see a pool there. You did tell them to make themselves at home, correct?
You’d be more than upset. Speechless. Horrified. Nonplussed even. Because while you wanted them to feel at home, you didn’t want them to act as if they owned the place. There’s a difference between being a guest and a resident. We want them to feel welcomed and at ease, but not to go overboard. (Actually, if you had a houseboat and they arrived to be your guests there, you might want them overboard!)
Yet this is exactly what God asks us to do. And He means what He says. He wants us not only to feel at home with Him but also to remain, to reside there. In fact, Jesus was explicit when He said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). He invites us to take full advantage of everything He has to offer to us.
The Scriptures use words like “abide,” “dwell” and “remain” to describe the relationship God desires with His children. These terms don’t refer to a quick visit or a stopover for a casual cup of coffee. We’re invited to abide in Him, enjoying His presence both now and for eternity.
Earlier in the passage Jesus draws a metaphor to a grapevine or the branch of a fruit-bearing plant, declaring, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).
The psalmist had a clear handle on this when he wrote, “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life” (Psalm 27:4). Later it says, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’” (Psalm 91:1). Sounds comforting, doesn’t it?
Many people proudly refer to themselves as “Christian,” and yet if one were to observe their lives and compare them to those of people who have no church or spiritual affiliation, too often we’d see little if any difference. Their behaviors, attitudes, even their conversations aren’t discernibly different, and they don’t seem to be experiencing the peace and rest that abiding – establishing our home in Christ – promises.
Could it be that even though God has invited them to “make yourself at home,” they’ve chosen instead just to make occasional, brief social calls, or at most treat it like an overnight motel stay, rather than fully embracing the invitation to abide – to remain as permanent residents?
* * *
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.