What was lost at creation was a place and a space of abundance, perfect communion, and glory. Adam and Eve were one with each other and one in God’s presence. As disciples saved from the power of Satan, we are brought once again in God’s place and space: the New Creation. It is even MORE glorious and abundant than the old, because God doesn’t just restore and renew but takes what was a story of brokenness, despair, and loss… and makes it into a redemption story for the ages. Revelations 21 shows us that the new heaven and earth will be more radiant than the old creation that though beautifully created, had been marred by sin.
Now, we are disciples of Jesus and participators in His work. We were made for this mission, for this project of doing beautiful work. What is this work? It is Kingdom work.
Previously, we looked at the core definition of Kingdom womanhood as doing the good and beautiful work of restoration God has called us to do. The question is, how do we do this work? What does this look like? This week, we’ll look at six aspects of Kingdom work in two-part series.
- She Has Done a Beautiful Thing: Kingdom Womanhood as Declaration
- Kingdom Womanhood: Making Home and Haven Part 1
- Kingdom Womanhood: Making Home and Haven Part 2
The Apostle Paul describes the mission that Jesus gave him in Acts 26.
I am sending you to them to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those sanctified by faith in Me. (Acts 26:17b-18).
This is a mission of rescue and adoption. The parable of the lost sheep (Matthew 18:12-14, Luke 15:3-7) gives us this image of Jesus as the Shepherd who will traverse over the hills to find the one, lost sheep that he will bring back to the sheepfold. He describes the work of the Good Samaritan who tenderly rescues a wounded man from the roadside, binds his wounds, and nurtures him back to health. Jesus’s command to Peter was to tend to, nourish, and feed His sheep. If we love Jesus, this is our mission.
Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. (John 10:7-9)
I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10:16)
The place of being in the Shepherd’s arms is one of belonging. It is a place of rest, a haven. Psalm 23 calls this being a sheep in His green pastures and dwelling in the house of the Lord. Furthermore, He who rescued us calls us to participate in this work, to be builders of this place of refuge, this community of the Kingdom, this place of fellowship, love, and light.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)
We cannot dwell in this place without one another. The building of Kingdom communities is a spirit-filled, sacred work in which we are all participants.
The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? (1 Corinthians 3:8-9; 16)
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)
God uses parables and metaphors to help us not only to picture but to feel: words like “home”, “household”, “tabernacle”, “pasture” are evocative in that they should help us arrive at a spiritual understanding. Tangible pictures collide with intangible truths. One such word, perhaps, is “homemaking”. The work of the church and the work of God’s household is to come together and make a home for one another.
How do we go about doing this? Jesus’s life and words are our blueprint. We love, we serve, we wash one another’s feet. The early church’s primary witness and appeal in the cruel, Greco-Roman world was simply a kind of interconnected, community, and devotion to one another that engendered ripples and shockwaves across the empire. According to historian Odahl (2004, p.24),
As an illicit minority cult, Christians had long been forced to hold their meetings in private homes. Wealthier members of local congregations donated houses to the bishops of their cities, and these domus ecclesiae (houses of the church) were remodeled inside for the needs of liturgical gatherings, communal meals, catechetical instruction, and personal counseling, etc. Such modest meeting places did not entail the immense financial and material outlays required for the pagan temples and festivals. The material resources of Christian congregations were rather focused on charitable activities— subsidizing their poor members when alive, and burying their deceased members for the afterlife. Christian churches had early institutionalized the love ethic of Jesus, and collected money and goods from their members into a communal fund which was overseen by the bishops and deacons. This fund was used to care for widows, orphans, the poor, the financially “shipwrecked,” and to feed confessors imprisoned for their faith during persecutions. Churches which were flourishing in one area often aided churches which were suffering in another area of the empire; and it was a common practice for local churches to provide housing to Christians visiting from other provinces. The communal fund had also been used from early times to purchase land outside cities, and dig underground catacombs where the Christian dead could be buried. The massive catacomb networks around Rome testify to this practice, and to the Christian belief in the eventual resurrection of the dead. From the late second century onward, the catacombs were decorated with scenes from the Bible and images symbolic of the life to come— Jesus as the Good Shepherd leading his flock to peace, the harvest of souls at judgment, the messianic banquet in heaven, etc. (Ill. 2). The loving care Christians offered to their living and deceased brethren could not but help impress the pagans, who had not devised such organized charitable activities either through the Roman government or in the pagan cults. Thus, when the good times of the pax Romana disappeared, and people became distressed and living became difficult in the third-century anarchy, the charity of the Church in this earthly life and the promise of a resurrection in a heavenly afterlife were strong attractions to disillusioned pagans.
The “home” we are to build with one another is where hope and haven collide. We have hope beyond this life, in a resurrection, an age to come, and in the fulfillment of all that Jesus promised. Yet, on this earth, “heavenly” doesn’t mean “otherworldly” in the sense of mere expectation. Otherworldliness is manifested – it describes the quality of our love, the joy we share, and the peace that surpasses human understanding, all of which no human communities can achieve. “Heavenly” describes Jesus’s incarnation among us and the divine quality our everyday, rubber-meets-the-road, practical, messy lives contain. We should neither be myopically focused on the tangible or on the intangible: Christian community is the sacred space where our future hopes and present havens co-exist, where the Kingdom of God is both now and not yet.
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58).
Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna were among the women who followed Jesus from “town after town” (Luke 8:2-4). They were not deterred by the fact that Jesus was essentially a homeless man, a nomad. Rather, they ministered to him. They left the comforts of their households, counted their cost, and made their home on the road.
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, (1 Peter 1:1)
We are pilgrims of the dispersion, we are scattered exiles. “Separation” for disciples of Jesus means a decisive break that happens when Jesus comes to us and says, “Follow me”.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God… All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:8-10; 13-16)
the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. (Hebrews 11:38)
Exile is a way of being. It means a separation from the world’s way of being.
Let’s call the way of the world “settlement”. In the study of colonialism and empire, it is fascinating that “settlement” has been one of the cornerstones of Empire. Empire involves the violence of invading, stealing, killing, and destroying – the very opposite of loving our neighbour. Empire seeks to establish itself, make a name for itself and endure, all the while thumbing its nose at the idea of a God who sees, hears, and judges. In Scripture, one of the first manifestations of Empire was the tower of Babel where mankind sought to exalt itself in rebellion and thumb its nose at God.
Exile, on the other hand, is a way of being distinct from Empire. God had always wanted His people to live with the remembrance of exile, whether dwelling and eating in tents during the Feast of Tabernacles each year or having the landless Levites living among them as pilgrims without an inheritance. There was a deep spiritual meaning to this.
Listen to what André Neher (1967, pp.167-174), a Jewish theologian, writes about nomadism.
If we were to search Hebrew society for a group most like the Levites, we would arrive at the “gerim”, the strangers, who are really “sojourners”. Their main characteristic is their nomadism, and indeed the Bible uses that term to describe the nomadism of the Hebrew patriarchs. They refer to themselves as gerim, their life is a pilgrimage (magur), and the land on which they pitch their tents is also one of pilgrimages… they did not forget that their presence in Egypt was a provisional one, and althought there were attempts to implant themselves in Egypt, to become sedentary there and to assimilate with the natives, it was certianly the preservation of the mentality of sojourners which did its share later in rallying the Hebrews to the notion of an exodus. After having invaded Canaan, the Hebrews did not stop being grim, but their society held numerous gerim… The Levites too, must be coutned among the gerim of sedentary Hebrew society. We can well understand their loyalty to nomadism if, as the Bible indicates, they were the avant-garde in Egypt of those who refused to settle premanently…
Since the Levites thus refused a rural or commercial existence, we must ask ourselves how they subsisted… The Levites lived on – nothing. Their existence depended on the charity of others. They were poor. Their rejection of the land was also a rejection of wealth…. Through the poor Levites, who are associated with God, God associates Himself with the lowest classes, the strangers, the widows and orphans, the poor and disinherited.
It is interesting that in Christianity today we see a struggle between diaspora and settlement. Christian nationalism is wholly rooted in the idea of claiming and ruling over territory, and establishing in that territory a kingdom of mammon that violates every command of Christ and everything His Kingdom stands for. It is about taking for oneself, and establishing for oneself land and lineage.This is why Jesus called us to forsake houses and fields for the sake of His Kingdom. It is not that land itself is antithetical to the Kingdom; rather, Jesus is calling us to consider the place where our treasure is laid. We have a treasure beyond and we are to relinquish the desire to plant our feet firmly in this world and the lust to expand our territory and dominion.
Interestingly, femininity in 19th century America grew out of the imperial mindset of conquest and expansion. It was based on a doctrine of “terra nullis”, a false doctrine claiming that there were no peoples and nations on American soil and that the entire continent was open for the taking (much like the “scramble for Africa”). Women played an essential role in this mission. The American “Cult of Domesticity” was closely tied to the Manifest Destiny, where women were angels of the home responsible for creating domestic, private spaces within their sphere of influence that enabled the growth of America as an empire both in wealth and territory. Eventually, this grew more and more individualized and solely focused on one’s family and status. This was entirely in service to “Empire” and the fulfillment of the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. To create such blissful domestic havens, pioneers killed, stole, and destroyed. America was conquered from sea to shining sea, its indigenous peoples all but wiped out by “God-fearing”, church-going, “civilized” colonizers.
If domesticity plays a key role in imagining the nation as home, then women, positioned at the center of the home, play a major role in defining the contours of the nation and its shifting borders with the
foreign… Jane Tompkins, for example, lauds Catherine Beecher’s Treatise on Domestic Economy as “the prerequisite of world conquest” and claims of a later version that “the imperialistic drive behind the encyclopedism and determined practicality of this household manual… is a blueprint for colonizing the world in the name of the ‘family state’ under the leadership of Christian women.”
My essay poses the question of how the ideology of separate spheres in antebellum America contributed to creating an American empire by imagining the nation as a home at a time when its geopolitical borders were expanding rapidly through violent confrontations with Indians, Mexicans, and European empires… Scholars have overlooked the fact that the development of domestic discourse in America is contemporaneous with the discourse of Manifest Destiny… The rhetorics of Manifest Destiny and domesticity share a vocabulary that turns imperial conquest into spiritual regeneration in order to efface internal conflict or external resistance in visions of geopolitical domination as global harmony. (Kaplan, 1998, pp.582-588)
Amazingly, both the separation of the two kingdoms and the oppositional ways of lust and love are manifested in distinct approaches to womanhood, homemaking, and domesticity. In contrast to the American story, we have the example of the early Anabaptists who were exiled and displaced from the beautiful lands their ancestors inhabited. Like the early Christians, they were uprooted and persecuted. If we are true followers of Jesus, it is likely that world may not see fit to allow us even a place to lay our head.
Adult baptism for the early Anabaptists was not just a theological statement but a political one: a stance taken against membership in a false church that had within it the power of state and sword, and rejecting infant baptism meant that the Anabaptists became outcasts. Marginality and exile became central to how Anabaptists thought about missions and discipleship (Drost, 2019). Yet, amidst all this upheaval and disinheritance, the Hutterites created communities with one another. Yes, they were sent from place to place and rejected by domain after domain, but the reason why they started practicing the community of goods was because, as refugees, they became a refuge for one another.
Jesus said, “Go into all the world” (Mark 16:15). As His disciples, this may mean that “home” is not a place or even a territory, but a sense of community, fellowship, and belonging that not only remains with us wherever we go, but is central to the good news we bring with us as we sojourn.
What does “home” mean to you? What does it mean to be built together into a household of God? What have been some of the ways you have seen God minister to you in the form of community?
Please share your thoughts and comments below! Perhaps you have ideas and stories about how we can minister to and serve one another. In the next installment of this series, we will look at “simplicity”, “Sabbath”, and “safety” in making safe and loving havens of the Kingdom.
Read other posts in this series: