From the Pastor’s Desk…
May is Christian Home Month on the United Methodist calendar. I’m glad it’s there. It reminds me to emphasize the importance of the Christian Home. It also prompts me to ask, “Just what is a ‘Christian Home’?”
Much like the word “Christian,” the “Christian Home” may cover a wide territory from the cultural to the religious to the personal. I will not make it my task here to throw out a definition and claim it as authoritative. I am not sure there is one definition that would properly cover the territory anyway. I will instead comment on what I think Jesus might consider a Christian Home to be, given the things he taught and which his life exemplified. This approach might yield something beyond the same old trite lists we often see.
Jesus would expect a Christian Home to be a place where His Heavenly Father is honored by a sense that each member of this family and our family are part of something even greater than ourselves. In this home there would reside a profound realization that we are not our own. Our lives and our destinies belong to a power greater than our selves. Further, our placement in this home is to be in partnership with God to help each of us fulfill God’s desire for each of us. In the same way that a Christian Home works in partnership with God for the provisions of daily living (shelter, food & clothing), a Christian Home must provide our spiritual bread too.
Christ might also expect that in this home there would be a clear sense that our members have a responsibility beyond each other in our life stewardship. It would be a home in which no member would be fulfilled if we are not concerned with sharing this spirit beyond the boundaries of our own home. It would be a home where the first item mentioned above would naturally move us to go outside of ourselves to fulfil our purposes. In other words, a Christian Home would never be an end in itself, but ultimately gives itself out for a greater purpose.
A third characteristic of the Christian Home Jesus would expect is justice. It is a key component in every Christian Marriage. A Christian home must be a place where respect resides and where accountability and consistency can contain both fairness and mercy. It would be a place where both children and parents are accountable for our actions. It would be a place where the aim of parenting is to develop emotionally healthy and reasonably disciplined adults. It would be a place ruled by reason, where children are given responsibilities and expectations consistent with their age and abilities.
Jesus would expect a Christian home to be a place where there is the security of unconditional love for each member of the family. While there is in the Christian family this justice containing important rules and consequences for each person’s behavior; these never call into question the absolutely unconditional nature of love held for each member of the family. This is a love that first acknowledges the basic goodness and worthiness of each person for who they are as God has made them. It can never call that into question. And it is a love that seeks what is best for the other and never what is best just for me or even for the family unit, but what is ultimately in that family member’s best interest.
Finally, Jesus would certainly expect to find in any Christian Home, a spirit of charity and forgiveness. This may of course, be the most trying of all that Jesus would expect. I’ve known of many homes which its members would fight you if you said their home was anything other than Christian; which in fact, were far from it. It is in the family that we most effectively teach our children who to hate and what we should never ever forget! I’ve known families in which the parents were particularly good at doing that within their church family too. I know folks who hated their pastor and would make it known to their children. Too many folks change churches because they won’t face conflict in a Christian way. Matthew 18 provides us with a graduate course on conflict resolution and forgiveness the Christian way.
By the way, forgiveness does not undo what another has done. Nor does forgiveness necessarily mean that all is forgot- ten. But forgiveness opens the door to healing and sometimes reconciliation. It makes sure the damage is contained and not continued and not allowed to grow. It places me in a position to pray for the person who wronged me and to desire what is best for the person who has hurt me. There are consequences to our actions and forgiveness does not undo those conse- quences, but it does allow for Christian love to flow out of my heart to heaven on behalf of the other person. Forgiveness is not an academic subject that can simply be taught. It is an on the job skill that must most powerfully be lived and witnessed before the words and concepts will take on their full meaning.
My sense of what Jesus looks for in “Christian Homes” comes from praying his prayer. In it we pray for our Father to be hallowed (honored) and His Kingdom to come (be extended to all) and His will be done in earth as in Heaven. Extending His Kingdom has to do with issues of justice (see Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7) and accountability. It calls on us to act toward others as we would have them act toward us. Jesus tells us to pray for our daily provi- sions (“bread” is an Ancient Mid-Eastern symbol for what we need) and proceeds to teach his disciples how to be partners with God in that venture. About forgiveness, he teaches us we can only ask for His forgiveness as we practice it in our living. Jesus himself shows how far the love of his forgiveness will take him. That would signal this is an important issue in any home that would call itself “Christian.”
While I didn’t talk about the Christian Home as being a place to keep us out of temptation and to deliver us from evil, I know of no better way to be in partnership with God on that subject than to live out the things mentioned above in each of our homes. A Christian Home, like a Christian, is never perfectly what we are to be, but by His Grace it is what we aim to become.
Yours for more and for more faithful Christian Homes,