Written by Fr. Dale Minor - Reclaim Ministry - Rutland, OH
Even a cursory study of home architecture will reveal an age when porches on a house were common. A proper home had to have a front porch. It served several purposes. First of all, it protected the entrance from the elements. It also provided an opportunity for one to shake off the dust of the road, even kick off a boot before entering the home. Before air conditioning was common, it also served as a place to do certain tasks where the air might be a little cooler and the chance of a breeze was good. And there was no place in the home more conducive to just sitting and relaxing; a place to read, to pray, or just reflect upon the circumstances of one’s life and talk to the Lord. Most of all, front porches are a place of welcome, they just say, “Come on in.”
In small towns and villages, in urban neighborhoods, at a time when people walked or rode a horse to get most anywhere, people could greet their neighbors as they passed by. Sometimes these folks had pressing matters such that they could only wave or tip their hats as they moved on. Others might pause a moment, exchange greetings and inquire of each other’s wellbeing. And some, would come on up, accept the invitation to stop, rest awhile, and spend some quality time with neighbors, both those who were long time friends and those they were just getting to know.
But the industrial age came upon the world. Motorized vehicles enable us to buzz along the streets and roads without even noticing the homes or who lived there. The houses had central heat and air conditioning; television took over our need for human contact. We even got to where the characters in a TV drama were more familiar to us than our next-door neighbor. And front porches were replaced by carports and back-yard retreats. Personal privacy became more important to us than sharing our lives with good friends and neighbors. And it was all to our loss.
There are literally dozens of scriptures calling us to love and share our resources with neighbors and strangers alike; far too many to list, so, here are just a few.
“Therefore, comfort each other and edify one another, just as you are doing.” (1 Thess. 5:11)
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:2)
“Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.” (Rom. 15:2)
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering; bearing with one another and forgiving one another,.. “
Even as our fast-paced life may hinder opportunities for “front-porch encounters,” it may even provide more opportunities to interact with acquaintances and strangers alike, for a stranger can be a friend you have yet to meet. We are probably all familiar with the passage from Mt. 25:34 and forward in which Jesus said. “I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.” And when his companions asked when they had done these things, Jesus replied, “In as much as you did this to the least of these, you did it to Me.”
This speaks about the condition of our hearts more than the architecture of our homes, as opportunity abounds for us to be witnesses to the saving grace of our Lord Jesus, and we begin by opening our hearts and minds to friends and strangers alike.
“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing, some have unwittingly entertained angels.” (Hebrews 13:2)