Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;Ephesians 2:19
I would like to make the case today (and perhaps in some coming posts) about the need for Christians to begin to think differently about their families. Christians, in particular husbands, need to make it their goal to establish Christian households. Instead of launching into all the reasons for this, let’s start with the basics of what a household is and what makes it Christian in nature.
What is a Household?
The Word “household” is important. It’s an old word but an even older concept, dating back to cultures that acknowledged and valued the existence of a social construct greater than the individual. It’s no wonder that this term seems outdated since the individual-unfettered and unencumbered- is the inspiration of modernity. The New Testament Greek word “οἰκεῖος” is more than a house; it is a household.
A household typically consists of family members working in cooperation towards the good of all those living within its borders. Most households began with a marriage and expanded to children, but extended family could become a part of it as well. Households could persists over generations and turn into nations, or through poor management or calamity pass away within one or two generations. Abraham’s household consisted of his wife, his nephew, and his servants/slaves. These all worked for the good of the household and derived their safety and prosperity from its well-being. Joseph became the head of his family household even before his father died (although Jacob was always honored as the patriarch) and invited his brothers and their families into it, eventually becoming a nation.
While it is true that there is no New Testament command to establish households, the reality of households is acknowledged frequently (1 Cor 1:16, 2 Tim 4:19). It would have been very difficult for the writers of the NT to conceive of the need to command households when their existence seemed self evident and assured. The commands to family members in Ephesians 5-6 is written in the format of a Roman household constitution. The keeping of many NT commands is either simplified or necessitated by the establishment of households, especially in the matter of caring for one’s own (1 Tim 5:4-9) and raising one’s children in the faith (Eph 6:4) This concept also helps us understand how the salvation of the head of a household would naturally result in the baptism of all household members into the faith (Acts 16:15).
A household is similar to a family, but implies a greater dimension of intentionality and responsibility. A family can be a family by accident (she happens to be my mom, etc…) but a household is established, built, and maintained. A household has a hierarchy and a necessity of cooperation and a culture that can be tasted. To be a household, a marriage must be more than a legally sanctioned “roommates with benefits” situation. Children must be more than boarders. Modern parenting is poison to the establishment of a household because the child is left exposed to the world to find his way instead of being disciplined in the values and traditions of the household. While the modern concept of the family is based upon association and feeling, the household is built upon genuine mutuality and cooperation in ways that are tangible.
If this all sounds a little stiff and hierarchical and heavy, then good. A household has weight because a household has substance. If your family looks like 4 people moving in different directions who happen to come together for a few meals a week, then you need to start thinking about establishing a household.
What is a Christian Household?
So what exactly is a “Christian” household? I would suggest 2 things. The first is that Christ is explicitly acknowledged as Lord. The persecution of the Church in the early centuries by the Romans boiled down to whether Caesar was Lord or Christ was Lord. Those who gave up their lives unto death did so because they refused to acknowledge Caesar as Lord. A Christian household has a clear understanding that Christ is Lord of the household.
The second feature is the practical reality of Christ’s Lordship. The Lordship of Christ must have more significance than some decorative wall art. The reality of Christ’s Lordship can be seen firstly in the structure of the household. Husbands, wives, and children accept their God-given mandates. The weekly schedule of the household reflects an un-compromised commitment to the Lord’s Day. The rules of the household reflect the rules of Christ.
But all of that would lead to a pretty suffocating environment if it was undertaken in the spirit of legalism instead of the spirit of Christ. So Christ’s Lordship must be acknowledged and honored but Christ’s spirit must also indwell and energize. There should be copious amounts of joy and service should be cheerful. For someone who had only experienced family dysfunction and suffering, sharing an evening with a Christian family should have the feel of a fairy tale.
The modern world has managed to associate religion with something heavy and dreary, like a rainy day that ruins the park. They have managed to gloss over the fact that the only color in the medieval village was the stained glass on the chapel and that the days of rest and feasting were all holy days. The truth is that the world is a dreary place and Christians are the ones who figured out how to play in its puddles. To be a Christian household is to face the pain and suffering of life beneath the banner of our Conquering Captain.
You should start thinking about your family as a household. Stop being the victim of a thousand demands placed upon you by other institutions and interests and start establishing your own schedule based upon Christian priorities. Stop spending your money on pleasures and entertainment and start investing it in the members of your household. Stop letting your kids be brainwashed by the vapid ideology of others and start instructing them in Christian truth and values. Under the banner of Christ, build something substantive in this world.
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