(Copyright Warren Wiersbe, originally appeared in Songs in the Night. May not be reprinted without permission of 2ProphetU.com.)
A cute little girl was sitting on top of a pile of luggage in a hotel lobby. Her parents were at the desk registering for their room. A sympathetic lady asked the little girl if they were visiting relatives in the city. “Oh, no,” the girl replied. “We’re going to live at this hotel until we find a house. My Daddy has a new job and we had to sell our house and move.” The lady said, “Oh, it’s too bad you don’t have a home.” To which the girl replied, “Oh, we have a home–it’s just taht we don’t have a house to put it in.”
A contractor can build you a house, a realtor can sell you ahouse, but only you can make it a home.
Someone has said that home is the place where we’re treated the best and complain the most! In his poem “The Death of the Hired Man,” Robert Frost says: “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” And all of us remember Edgar Guest’s poem that says, “It takes a heap o’ livin’ to make a house a home.” You can build a house out of bricks and wood and plaster; but it takes love, patience, forgiveness and faith in Christ to make that house a home.
On the banks of the James River in Virginia, one of the early settlers erected a tombstone in memory of his wife. On it he wrote: “She touched the soil of Virginia with her little foot and the wilderness became a home.” Houses are made of planks and plaster, but homes are made of people–people who love each other and who live to serve each other. Housese have a tendency to fall apart–they always need paint and repairs. But homes have a tendency to grow together, to become stronger and more beautiful.
One of the tragedies of life today is the decay of the home. Homes have turned into hotels, where people with the same name sleep and eat when they don’t have something else to do. Home is a place to grab a bite to eat, change clothes, and take off for something more exciting. Someone has suggested that the ideal entrance to the modern house would be a revolving door!
Sad to say, some homes are battlegrounds. It doesn’t surprise me that young people prefer staying away from home when all parents do is argue and fight. God never meant it to be that way. Home is not a place to hang your hat; it’s a place to satisfy your heart. It’s the place where we don’t have to wear masks and pretend, but where we can be ourselves among people who accept us for what we are–and who love us just the same. Jesus compared heaven to a home (John 14:2). Home is to be a heaven on earth, but sometimes just the opposite is true.
I suppose I could check back and count up all the weddings I have officiated in my years of ministry; I’m sure there are hundreds. And I wish I could visit all of the homes that have grown out of those marriages. If I could, I would leave at each of them one verse from the Bible. It is the verse that, to me, above all others, tells us how to have a happy home. “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). This is the very heart of happiness in our homes.
A happy home does not depend on externals–furniture, clothes, swimming pools and things like that. A happy home depends on the hearts of the people who live there. No amount of furniture or luxuries can make up for a selfish heart or a mean disposition. We parents are sadly mistaken if we think we can build good homes out of bad hearts. We must begin with our own hearts and make sure that they are right with God. Then we can lead our children to be what God wants them to be.
“Be ye kind to one another.” Kindness in the home is so important. How easy it is for us to think only of ourselves and what we want, and not to think of others. The kind word, the kind deed–these weave into the fabric of the home a beautiful picture of love. The kind person is gentle and considerate. A few years ago, my children complained about their dentist. I had gone to him myself, so I knew he was a capable man; but they were unhappy. Then the truth came out: he was a good dentist, but he wasn’t kind. Well, we changed to a different dentist; and the family was very happy because the new man had a kind, delicate touch.
“Be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted.” A tender heart always means a kind touch. The opposite of tenderhearted is hardhearted, and a person with a hard heart is always hard to live with. To be tenderhearted means to exercise love and patience when dealing with others. Love is the oil that lubricates the machinery of the home. A tender heart means a loving word, patience, and encouragement. How easy it is for our children to get discouraged; and when they come home, they need some love and encouragement. Tenderhearted…it isn’t difficult to be kind when you have a tender heart.
“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.” There never was a happy home without forgiveness. At almost every wedding I perform, I ask in my prayer that God will give the couple the grace of forgiveness. It’s amazing how the clouds are lifted and the barriers removed when somebody says, “I’m sorry,” and somebody answers, “I forgive you.” And yet I meet many people whose minds are like computers: they remember every mistake, every unkind thing; and they hold these things over other members of the family like clubs. It’s next to impossible to live with somebody who doesn’t know how to forgive and forget.
A kind heart, a tender heart, a forgiving heart: this is the heart of the home. But this kind of a heart is not natural to man. Our hearts are selfish and hard and often mean. It is only through Jesus Christ that we can have this kind of heart that makes for happiness in the home. And this is the kind of heart God gives you when you turn from sin and trust Jesus Christ.
Why should we be kind to one another? Because God has been kind to us. Christian love is simply treating others the way God has treated us. As we live together, we learn more about the kindness of God. Children who grow up in an atmosphere of love and kindness will soon learn to appreciate the love of God. A college student said to me, “I have a hard time thinking of God as a heavenly Father. You see, my own father was such a tyrant that the word father almost makes me cringe.” We exercise kindness, tenderness, and forgiveness becasue it is the way God deals with us. Because God has been so kind and forgiving toward me, I cannot help but be kind and forgiving toward others. And the place to start is at home.
Suppose God started treating you and me the way we treat others? Suppose He acted toward His children the way we act toward our children? Would we enjoy life? I think not. God is tender toward us–patient–loving–forgiving–kind. And because He is, He expects us to act the same way toward those we live with and work with each day. If you have experienced the love and grace of God in your own heart, then you should have no trouble sharing that love with others.
“And be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Here we have the secret of a happy home. If Christ is in our hearts and in our homes, then He will make our homes a heaven on earth. Yes, it takes a “heap o’ livin’ to make a house a home”–but it also takes a heap of loving: love that is kind, tender, forgiving. Let’s ask God to put that kind of love in our hearts and in our homes.
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).