Where is HOME?

A popular country-inspired plaque reads: “Home is where the heart is.” My dog seems to believe that “home is where the food is.”  This time of year, as the gardens fade and the temperatures drop, I do seek the comfort and warmth in my home.  I enjoy it. Time to turn on the black iron stove in the living room (no more wood and fireplace for us). Time to get out the comfy sweaters, fleece and flannel. I decorate for all the holidays and look forward to cooking chilis, soups and pasta instead of green salads and iced tea.

Certainly, the idea of “home” may be different for everyone – it can be a place of treasured childhood memories, or it can conjure up dark memories of abuse and anger. It can be a place of contentment or a place of conflict. In the Old Testament, “home” implied a family unit (large or small), living together, sharing a building (simple or palatial), usually with common duties, work, goals and common beliefs. But the “home” or “house” is used as a common metaphor in the OT, especially in the Wisdom literature:

Psalm 84:3-4 says, “Even the sparrow has found a home, and a swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young – a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.” 

Proverbs 3:33: “The Lord’s curse is on the house of wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous.”

When the Teacher, the author of Ecclesiastes speaks, of an “eternal home” in Ecc 12:5, he is not imagining a place of peace and paradise, but a place of death, a place of “no return,” of “gloom and darkness” (see Job 10:19-22).

In the OT, God promised that “I will dwell among” his people, when they made a “sanctuary” [a holy place] for him (Ex 25:8). Thus, the “tabernacle” (Ex 25:9) was the dwelling place of God among his people. Then, in the NT, in Jesus, God chose to “tabernacle” or to “dwell” with his people: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1:14).

Thus, when we turn to the Gospel of John in the NT, Jesus promises that, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (Jn 14:23).  This is quite and interesting phrase, “to make our home with them.” In Greek, the common word for “house” is oikia, as found in Jn 14:2. In the same verse, the word for “rooms” is mone, which can also be translated “dwelling.” The traditional, English word “mansions” (in 14:2) is an incorrect mistranslation of the Latin Vulgate Bible; today it might be used as “apartments,” or “flats.” Again, the word mone is the word used in 14:23, translated as “home, or dwelling,” indicating that the Father and the Son will “dwell” with the obedient believer, now and in the future. This is pictured in Jn 14:18-20: “I will come to you….Because I live, you also will live. On that day, you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you….” Jesus’ words in John 14 reveal levels of meaning, because he speaks not only of his own appearances to is disciples after the resurrection, but he also speaks of his second coming and of the gift of the Holy Spirit to all believers. The resurrection would radically change the idea of God dwelling with and making his abode with his people. The promise of God’s “tabernacling” with his people, however, is accompanied by two petitions of “love and obedience” (14:21, 23-24).

In summarizing John’s Gospel, then, we can say that “home” is the presence of God, with and in the believer who “loves [Jesus] and obeys his teaching” (14:23). It is both individual and corporate; it is both present and future. Each person can find a home with God in this life (through love and obedience), and is promised an eternal life to come with God (Jn 14:2, 3). Then, we are invited into a community of believers (a “neighborhood” of “homes”) which is, of course, the church. As a result of the first coming of Jesus, each believer is privileged to have a very close relationship with Jesus, his Father, and his Spirit, and close relationships with other people within his community, the church.  Through his death and resurrection, Jesus made it possible for his people to be “at home” with him eternally.

It is interesting to think that, for Christian believers, this earth is not our final “home.”  Jesus promised something incredible which lies just beyond our physical existence – I wonder what it will be like? In any event, we will be living in the “neighborhood” of the Triune God.

One of my favorite authors is Frederick Buechner. He is a wonderful writer, and this is what Buechner writes about his search for “home:”

“In my books, and sometimes in real life, I have it in me at my best to be a saint to other people, and by saint, I mean life-giver, someone who is able to bear to others something of the Holy Spirit, whom the creeds describe as the Lord and Giver of Life. Sometimes, by the grace of God, I have it in me to be Christ to other people. And so, of course, have we all – the life-giving, life-saving, and healing power to be saints, to be Christs, maybe at rare moments even to ourselves. I believe that it is when that power is alive in me and through me that I come closest to being truly home, come closest to finding or being found by that holiness that I may have glimpsed in the charity and justice and order and peace of other homes I have known, but that in its fullness was always missing. I cannot claim that I have found the home I long for every day of my life, not by a long shot, but I believe that in my heart I have found, and have maybe always known, the way that leads to it….the home we long for and belong to is finally where Christ is. I believe that home is Christ’s kingdom, which exists both within us and among us as we wend our prodigal ways through the world in search of it” (Secrets in the Dark, pp. 236-237).


Author: Judy

Christian educator, writer, specializing in the New Testament

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