A Theology of Home

They say you can’t go home again. In my case, it would be trespassing.

You see, my parents have sold the house in which I spent my adolescence. I helped them move over Thanksgiving weekend, and there was much work to be done. Hard work calls for hard thinking, and as I emptied out my old bedroom, I found my thoughts drifting toward the concept of home.

I had always thought of home as being independent of place. When you’ve moved more times in the last thirteen years than you have fingers on your hands, it’s a helpful notion. Home, we tell ourselves, is “where the heart is,” and is found “wherever you lay your head.” Even Jesus told a potential follower, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

How then, given that we humans can make a home out of almost anywhere, should we regard place? Is it merely incidental to our larger concept of home? I think not.

If we look at it theologically, we see that particularity of place plays a big part in the concept of home. True, Jesus had no place to lay his head, and poor Paul traveled too much to even tend to his unibrow, but this doesn’t mean that the Bible regards place as irrelevant.

After all, if place had no value, why was God so adamant that Israel go in and take a particular piece of land in Palestine? Jerusalem (both the new and old) certainly has immense theological significance, as does Bethlehem and Babylon. Like our lives, the Bible doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The storyline of Scripture takes place in real, concrete places.

What then, are we to think of the particular places in which we live our lives? I think that texts like this one give us a clue:

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. [Hebrews 11:8-10, ESV]

The homes we have in this life cause us to look forward. That is not to say that our earthly homes are not good in their own right. The places we inhabit are good, but their imperfections point us toward something better yet. Good homes remind us of greater things.

Therefore I think it is appropriate to miss a good home. After all, those of us who follow Christ are infected with a homesickness that will only be cured by his unveiling. While I won’t be snooping around my old house anytime soon, I will remember it as a place where I learned to look forward to a place to come.

2 thoughts on “A Theology of Home”

  1. Interesting…and as I think about it, a down-home singer once sang, “My home’s in Alabama…” (Maybe something like living in the wilderness between Egypt and the Promised Land.)

  2. Symphathies. I have often tried to think how brave I’d be if my parents sold their place, but even though I’ve been away for 15 years, I’d still be saddened at the prospect.

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