Rosaria Butterfield: …and we’ve neglected people. You know, we say family of God, but then our Christmas dinner looks like everybody whose last name is…
Jim Daly: The same.
Rosaria: The same.
Rosaria: And that’s not family of God.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: Rosaria Butterfield is our guest today on Focus on the Family. Your Host is Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.
Jim: John, I’ll never forget how I felt when my high school football coach, Paul Morrow, offered to adopt me. I was 15, and both my parents had passed away, and I was living with my brother. When Paul said he and his wife wanted to adopt me, uh, my heart was uh… it was just like, wow! I can remember thinking, “What in the world does he see in me?” In the end, I offered to turn Paul’s offer down so I could stay with my brother ’cause I thought it would hurt his feelings, but man I wanted to go. The point is this, the simple fact that Paul had invited me into his family and into his home, gave me an incredible amount of hope that I mattered to somebody.
John: Well, you had spent so many years just kind of um, making life on your own terms without the support of family. I can’t imagine that sense of hope and light that came into you.
Jim: Well true, and it just gave me that sense of belonging I guess. Our guest today had a similar experience when they invited her into their home. It changed everything for this woman, and maybe that’s why I identify with it so much. Her name is Rosaria Butterfield. At the time, it was the late 90’s. She was living proudly as a lesbian feminist. She had no interest in God and considered Christians to be the enemy, kind of intellectually inferior, but when a Christian couple, Ken and Floy Smith, offered Rosaria the hospitality of their home, it caught Rosaria’s attention. She ended up accepting Christ as her personal savior, and it completely turned her life around all because of a simple dinner invitation.
John: It is a tremendous act of love to open up your home, and uh, earlier this year we heard that full story from Rosaria and a couple of other broadcasts about hospitality. The conversation we’re airing today is a continuation of those first two discussions. I recommend you listen to those other programs through our app or online. Uh, Rosaria is an author, speaker, pastor’s wife and home school mom, and she’s written the book Gospel Comes With a House Key. And, here’s how we started that conversation.
Jim: Help us understand why you are so passionate about hospitality. You know, we read that in Scripture, and we think, yeah, be kind, be joyful, be hospitable, OK. And we keep moving.
Jim: But it is the…
Jim: …To unlocking the heart of…
Jim: …Especially nonbelievers.
Rosaria: It is. And it’s also connected to what it means to be a radically converted person in this post-Christian world.
Rosaria: Here’s why – when I share with people what Ken and Floy Smith did for me in my conversion process – now, we – I don’t believe that I’m discipled into conversion. I don’t believe that, you know, it was a casserole that brought me to faith. It was… (Laughter) it was the spirit of God…
Jim: Yeah, this is love.
Rosaria: …Which is a supernatural – you know, the power of heaven coming down to save a sinner like me.
But the highway that that traveled on was Ken and Floy Smith’s tireless Christian hospitality. I was in their home at least weekly for two years. And while in their home, I would argue with them. And after I would argue with them, I would go back to campus where I was a professor at Syracuse, and I would demean them. I would mock them. And I would go back the next week and do it again.
Jim: So you said yes. You go to the home.
Rosaria: I said yes. And…
Jim: And boom.
Rosaria: And week after week, it’s the sort of – it’s the same thing. Lots of people come in. Good food, simple food – sort of like how I cook – simple food, but plenty of it. People come in. They talk. Then at a certain point, the – you know, the Bible’s open, the psalter’s open. They sing the Psalms exclusively – four-part harmony. The aesthetic beauty of the Psalms was compelling to me. And the words, quite frankly, were disgusting… (Laughter) I don’t know what else to say.
Jim: To you at the time, right.
Rosaria: To me at the time, absolutely. And, um – and after years and years of that – and I talk about this elsewhere – something happened. The Bible got to be bigger inside me than I. And that’s what changed. And when I came to Christ, I did not stop feeling like a lesbian, but I knew Jesus was who He said He was.
Rosaria: And so that’s conceptually what it means. And what it means practically is that for the last 17 years of marriage, Kent and I have just done this thing that we thought was normal. But we, you know, we are in the world, so we know that Christians don’t think it is.
Jim: (Laughter) Right.
Rosaria: And so we sort of – so think of this book as our coming out party, if you will. Um, so for – when Kent and I got married, we were the only believers in our extended families. That means that we were lonely people.
Rosaria: And – and our commitment to family of God meant that – that we believed that our home was a place where a family of God gathers, not by invitation only, but organically and regularly. So we started practicing daily hospitality with our family of God from the very beginning of our marriage. One of the nice, little, old ladies in the church had bought us one of those little guest books (Laughter) that you fill out. Well, after four months of marriage, we had filled it up entirely. And we looked at each other and said, “We’re gonna throw this sucker away…
Jim: Get a new one.
Rosaria: …And we’re” – no… (Laughter) we’re never gonna get a new one because we’re gonna have God keep these tallies… Jim: Oh, wow.
Rosaria: …Because there’s something about keeping these tallies that is going to spook us…
Rosaria: …Because we were noticing then a crisis of loneliness in the church.
Jim: Rosaria, you talk about the importance of having a solid Christian community – your church…
Jim: …I believe you’re referring to as part of your support network. So we’ve – you know, we’ve kind of hammered the – the maybe less-informed person and their protective nature and their boundaries perhaps being a bit too staunch, too wide. Let’s talk about the importance of that community helping you.
Rosaria: Yeah. No, and, I think that’s really key – that – that – that none of this happens apart from covenant membership in a Bible-believing church.
Rosaria: …That I am not talking – this is not a hospitality book about how to decorate or how to cook for 50 people or how to take in stray pets, although you’ll get lots of tips about all of those things. This is really about what it means to be a covenant member of a Bible-believing church and to live in such a way that your neighbors take notice.
You know, I – when I lived in Syracuse, everybody knew who had the good snow-blower on the block. (Laughter) You didn’t have to know anything about those people but to know they had a good snow blower. And you know what? That snow-blower really came in handy. What would it mean if your neighbors, trying to navigate this post-Christian world, said to themselves, “I don’t know what it is about the Dalys. I don’t know what it is about the Butterfields but their church family – that – they organize daily at their house. There aren’t lonely people there.”
Rosaria: “There’s no sense that their Christmas is not just people who have the last name Daly or Butterfield. (Laughter) And, you know, I can’t even get a handle on some of the people that are in that house, but they love each other. They help each other. They’ve done really good things for our neighborhood. They’ve been earthly good to us.”
Rosaria: What if our neighbors could actually say that? And what if we could then talk about, “Well, you know what? We are a family.”
Rosaria: And we believe what the Bible says in Mark Chapter 10, Verse 28 to 30. This is where Peter says to Jesus, “See? We have left everything and followed you.” And Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the Gospel who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands with persecutions and, in the age to come, eternal life.”
Rosaria: This is why I say the Gospel comes with a house key. See that hundredfold that Jesus promises there – that isn’t Ephesians 2. That’s not every spiritual blessing. I’m all for every spiritual blessing. I do want that. We need that. We need union with Christ. But this is very material – houses, brothers, sisters, lands, your neighbor who comes to Christ and leaves her lesbian partner – well, she’s lost – houses, sisters, brothers and lands. And the Gospel that you’ve called her to requires no dual citizenship. The Gospel comes in exchange for the life you once loved, not in addition to it.
Rosaria: But if you’re not there – Church, if you’re not there with that hundredfold blessing, then you are leaving her vulnerable to, among other things, a gay rights movement that says, “Well, we’re family. We gather. We don’t ask questions.” And so I think what’s – what happens is that we’ve really gotten off our path. We have started to privilege the family of biology over the family of God.
Rosaria: We have forgotten that the blood that pumps our veins whole is the blood of Christ, and the blood that organizes our family is the blood of Christ, and we’ve neglected people. You know, we say family of God, but then our Christmas dinner looks like everybody whose last name is…
Jim: The same.
Rosaria: The same.
Rosaria: And that’s not family of God.
Jim: That’s interesting, and it’s a hard thing. It’s a hard rut to get out of. It’s a worldly rut. It’s a human rut, and yet, God is calling us to something more.
Uh, Rosaria, we need to get to some of the examples, and I’m going to manage the end of the time here. So I want to see the proof in the pudding.
Jim: Share a couple of the stories of the neighbors and what has happened and how their lives have been transformed.
Rosaria: Yeah. Well, I’ll tell you. I – I think the proof of the pudding is in whether Jesus has been glorified.
Rosaria: We’ve seen people come to Christ in unlikely situations. We’ve also seen people come to the table in unlikely situations. We’ve had neighbors come up and say, “You know, Kent, I was a little girl once in a Baptist church. And 30 years ago, I heard that Jesus saved sinners just like me, and I just thought that – that was ridiculous, but … I’m I’m curious. Do you think Jesus is still waiting for me?”
Rosaria: You know…
Jim: It opens up the dialogue.
Rosaria: It opens up the dialogue.
Rosaria: I’ve had neighbors come and say, “Hey, can we come over and talk? We just heard that our neighbor was diagnosed with cancer, and it seems so unfair. He’s – a single parent. Where is God in this suffering? Can we just come over and talk about that?”
Rosaria: And then that’s the conversation. The whole family comes over, and they say, “Where’s God?” And that’s what you talk about.
Jim: And in this, the reality is, there’s going to be some tough stuff.
Rosaria: Oh, yes.
Jim: I mean, Jesus didn’t call you to easy.
Jim: He’s calling you to some messy, messy stuff.
Jim: In fact, you had a break-in, right?
Rosaria: Yeah. We sure did. We sure did.
Jim: You had – you had – somebody broke into your house and took things that were precious to you.
Rosaria: Yep, all of my jewelry.
Jim: How did you process that? Did you have a discussion with your husband, saying, “OK, maybe we need to close this down a little bit. Too many people know what’s going on at our house.”
Rosaria: Yeah – funny (laughter).
Jim: I mean, that’s the fleshly way to look at it.
Rosaria: Yeah. It is. It is. I mean, in addition, we’ve adopted teenagers out of foster care, one out of a gang, you know? How – do you ever look at the holes in your walls and see an image bearer as the – you know, do you look at the children in your neighborhood who eat all the Pop-Tarts and drink all the milk and don’t wipe their feet, and do you think, “That might be my future pastor someday?” (Laughter) You know, these are the questions that you have to go through because that’s what it means. I think, ultimately, when you apply the eyes of faith to the facts of life, it doesn’t make the facts go away, but it does transform them.
John: And just this reminder that we’re talking to Rosaria Butterfield today on Focus on the Family. Her book, The Gospel comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post Christian World is available when you call 800, A, FAMILY. Or, stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. During our conversation with Rosaria, we asked the studio audience if they had any questions for her, and here’s one about hospitality in the midst of a busy schedule.
Chad: Hi. My name’s Chad …
Rosaria: Hi, Chad.
Chad: And I live here in Colorado Springs. And I just wanted to ask you a question. I serve at a church in suburban America. You, as a mother who homeschools and is busy – I’m just curious, like, what do you say to the soccer mom who is very busy already or the classic suburban families who are just so full and just…
Chad: The constant response I get back is I don’t have time for hospitality so…
Chad: …How would you respond to that?
Rosaria: Right – absolutely. That’s perfect. I have – in the audience right now is my 15-year-old son. (Laughter) So he might be able to answer this better than I. So yes. I homeschool. At about 4:30, I am done. And they are done also. (Laughter) My son can attest to that, right? You know, I am, like, beating my head against the table.
So really, we are all so grateful to just turn the page on homeschooling at about 4:30. And it just works really well. I’ll tell you what we will never be in my household. We will never be Olympic-level soccer players. (Laughter) I’m just telling you. We do two things. We practice the piano. And we work out at the local Jewish community center. (Laughter) And we walk our dogs. So that working out…
Jim: You get some exercise.
Rosaria: We get some exercise. We are musically literate. And that’s it. That’s it. But that also means that we are available for after-school care. Every neighbor knows that. And the children whose families are going through hard things – they know it, too. They know they’re welcome for dinner – no questions asked. There isn’t a question about that.
And so for our whole family – but including my children – my two younger children – they’re 12 and 15 – they are stakeholders in this hospitality ministry, in part, because they want to be done with homeschooling at 4:30, too – but also because they care about their friends. They care about their friends who are not yet believers. They care about the boy in the neighborhood who’s getting bullied. They’ve got their ear to the ground with kids in ways that I don’t. And they know how to invite them. They’re the bridge to them. So I would say, as Christians, there are a lot of good things that we can be doing. And it’s good to do good
But it’s even better to do the best. In the book, I talk about a situation where we were friends with a neighbor across the street who – it turns out he was running a meth lab. That was a really big deal. It meant that our neighborhood became the subject of a – you know, both legal and emotional crisis. The children were confused. I mean, if you’ve ever seen a meth lab be taken apart, it’s like a Gothic novel on a level you can’t imagine. Our house was wrapped in crime scene tape for a year. The children had questions. Neighbors had questions. And so it just was more important. I think what really happened was, in that crisis, the souls of our neighbors and how as a Christian household we could help navigate a Christian perspective on suffering. It was just more important than soccer. It just became a bigger deal.
And so, I think it would just be – that’s just the question. It’s the question of – of the legacy you’re leaving, and where you’re going with this. Also, you know, we’re a family made up of adoption and foster care. There have been lots of times in our house when we’ve had to just stop what we’re doing because we are about to adopt a child who stands a foot taller than I do. Two of our children came to us at the age of 17 out of foster care.
Rosaria: We’ve had a lot of well-meaning Christians say a lot of really silly things like, “Isn’t that dangerous?” or “I hope it works out.” I mean, what does that mean, “I hope it works out?” If you’re obeying God, it’s working out, whether there are holes in your walls or not. You know, we’re not going to win the image necessarily, but we want to win the souls.
Jim: Well, Rosaria, also in that context, it’s not about owning the outcomes…
Rosaria: No, it’s definitely not.
Jim: …It’s about being faithful in your journey.
Rosaria: That’s right.
Jim: And that’s important because I think as Christians we tend to wanna own the outcome.
Rosaria: We do. That’s true.
Jim: If we do A plus B, then we get C.
Rosaria: That’s true. And I think we also tend to think that our children are not capable of being engaged in ministry, that somehow we think that for our children, they would be better off if the idols of acquisition and achievement were powerfully theirs, when really, you know, you want your children to know Jesus, to know he’s not some prop you pull out for Sunday morning. And you want your children to know, no, we don’t do this in our strength. We do this in the strength of – of Christ alone.
And so I think it’s just a matter of focus and priority. But I also think – again, I say this in the book – that there are seasons when our house looks different. I mean, when we had just adopted a teenager out of foster care, we weren’t having 25 people over. You know, right now we’re home-studied sufficiently that we have prisoners from a minimum-security prison who are on a five-hour pass at our home at every Thanksgiving and Christmas and Easter and major holiday. Um, these are also brothers in the Lord who have tied into our church, who worship with us when passes allow.
It’s serious, though. If we take a walk with the dogs, we need to tell, the prison guard needs to know exactly where we are. And he’s shown up. He’s shown up while we’re walking the dogs – no kidding. But when you – when you live openly like this, you know, your children see faith in a different way. You know, when you live Hebrews 13:1 through 3, you just can’t look at a soccer tournament the same way again. And so I think that’s what God does. In ministry, God gives you something better to look at. And that’s helpful.
Jim: That is good.
Yeah. You know, in your book, Rosaria, you talk about your relationship with your mom, especially at the end of her life. As I read the book, I saw that there was a lot of pain in that relationship, and yet, at the end, there was a lot of joy.
Rosaria: Yeah, yeah.
Jim: Describe what happened and how hospitality became a part of that.
Rosaria: Right. Right, right, yeah, absolutely. Well, so, I was raised by two very committed atheists. And, um, so when I wrote Openness Unhindered – that’s the second of the two books – uh, the two books on sexuality – my mom read both of them. And she said, “Rosaria, I’ve got two things to say to you. If anything was going to make me a Christian, it would be one of your – your two – the two books that you wrote. Um, but I’m not weak like you.”
Jim: The typical statement.
Rosaria: “I’m not weak like you. And so, here’s the other thing I need you to know. I’m dying, and I want to die my way. And I want to know if you’re going to let me die my way because that’ll determine how much proximity you have to me. I’m going to die my way. I have lung cancer, and I have – I don’t know – six weeks left.”
So that’s what my mom said to me. And, you know, this is – this was a very – uh, and I describe it in the book – it was a very difficult relationship. Um, and this was a very scary moment for me because it was no longer theoretical. My mother was dying.
Here’s where a Christian family really comes in. My children – my believing children – those – those are the two youngest of my children – they prayed for her, and they could share the Gospel with her with an openness that was – it was disarming to me.
Rosaria: But things got very intimate when hospice came, and things got very quiet when hospice came. Um, I was certainly not throwing dinner parties. I wasn’t talking with neighbors. I wasn’t walking the dogs. I had tucked myself into a little chair in the corner of a room. And in that little corner of the room, I would sit with my Bible and my Psalter. And my mother would – has always loved to hear me sing, and so I would sing to her. I had favorites from my Psalter that I would sing.
Rosaria: And – and – and we were in a hospice center, and the nurses would come in and say, “Um, do you mind if we leave the door open? There are some other residents who would like to hear you sing.”
Rosaria: And so, um, I would do that. And then a few days later my daughter, who was 10 at the time, she auditioned to play the piano at the hospice center. And she would play hymn tunes. And as I would sing and my daughter would play the piano – um, and the door was open and my mother would listen – um, ambulance drivers would stop and take their hats off and come in and say, “Ma’am, I know the bass part to this – to this psalm. May I sing it with you?” (Laughter) Um, the, um, lesbian-identifying nurse with the haircut that looked a lot like mine and the heart that resembled mine from 20 years ago had a beautiful alto voice. And she would sit with me and sing psalms to my mother.
Rosaria: And my mother was a member of a group called the Hemlock Society. That’s the right-to-die society. And she had friends who wanted to know why I wouldn’t just do what needed to be done, push that morphine button, put the pillow in a different place. And I decided at that moment that anyone who was going to call was going to have to call through my cellphone. And so I put the do-not-disturb sign up, and I sang, and I read. And then one day, my mother sat up, and she said, “OK, I’m weak like you. Now what?”
Rosaria: And I said, “Mom, I don’t – I think you know the Gospel. I just don’t think you know the shepherd.” And she said, “OK, that’s probably right. Why don’t you tell me about the shepherd?” And at that moment onward, my mother wanted to hear nothing but Psalm 23 sung to her by her daughter and the word of God read, especially by her son-in-law, whom she, quite frankly, despised until three days before she died.
Rosaria: And she made it clear to us, too. I mean, she was not – my mom was not a, uh, you know…
Jim: She didn’t mince words.
Rosaria: I’m a little bit like her. She did not mince words. That’s right.
And then, one day, she said, “OK, I think I understand the shepherd. But what in the world am I going to do with my sin? And please don’t tell me we’re calling in a priest!” And then I shared with her what repentance means, what it means to see that Jesus is already there, sitting at the right hand of God the father, arms open, resurrected, crucified and resurrected, that when we repent of our sin, all we do is prove that God was right all along. And so two days before my mother died, she committed her life to Jesus.
Jim: Wow. That is powerful. And I love…
Rosaria: And that was all the Lord.
Rosaria: …Because here’s the terrible thing about witnessing to a family member. They know your sin better than you do. You’re the worst witness in the world.
Jim: Right. Yeah, well, which again, uh, points us to Christ, the redeemer of all.
Jim: …Even us sinners saved by grace.
Jim: And that’s the point. And I hope this has touched, uh, your heart, the listener. You might be in that spot right now, where you’re not sure. We’re here at “Focus on the Family.” Call us. Let us talk with you. We have caring Christian counselors who can help you, uh, sort through what it means to have a commitment to Christ, what it means to lay your life down for him, and then what it will mean to pick it up and to live in such a way that the Gospel can shine through you.
Rosaria, thank you so much for this wonderful book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key. I think it’s one of the most important messages for the church right now. And it’s just like the Lord to say, “Bring it back to the basics. I’m about relationship. I want you to be about relationship, so together we can save souls for eternity.” Isn’t it…
Rosaria: Yeah, amen.
Jim: …That simple, and yet, that difficult? And you have, uh, put it in reach for all of us through this great book. It’s been great to have you with us.
Rosaria: Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thank you so much. And I just praise God for the ministry here at “Focus on the Family.” And it’s my honor to partner with you when – whenever y’all call me back to Colorado (laughter).
Jim: Yeah, that’s it. It’ll be soon.
John: Well, we hope the conversation today has made you feel more equipped to show Christ like hospitality in your everyday life to neighbors, family members, and everyone in between and as Jim mentioned there, if you’d like to speak with one of our counselors of find out more about becoming a Christian, please reach out us. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And by the way, our team is very busy, we’ll probably have to schedule a time for them to call you for that free consultation.
Jim: And let me mention this, John. The reason we’re able to provide those free consultations, is because of our generous team of donors. If you financially support Focus on the Family, let me say thank you so much for making a difference. If you’ve never given to Focus, would you consider joining the team? Every $24 you give will help someone in crisis. So please, consider giving today, and if you can give a gift of any amount to Focus on the Family, I’ll send you a copy of Rosaria’s great book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key as our way of saying thank you.
John: And again, our number is 800, A, FAMILY. 800-232-6459, or online you can donate at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Well next time on this broadcast, encouragement for moms who struggle feeling anxious and stressed.
Mrs. Amber Lia: I’m one mom. I am the best mom for the job because God gave me these kids.
Jim: He chose you.
Amber: He chose me, and so I don’t need to be stressed.
End of Teaser