The Young Christian in the Home
Philip Lemon, Barnstaple
Home, sweet home! To many it is this. Oh that it was to all! Home is the place of security and shelter, a place of love and affection. It is the very basis of society and the core of a nation. We could form a reasonable opinion of a nation were we to visit a cross-section of its homes. It is in the atmosphere of the home that tremendous influences for good or ill are at work. By God’s grace, let us contribute there that which will promote affection and the development of Christian character.
The Basis of all is Love
The one solid foundation for this centre of character training is affection and love. If this is not present, it is quite impossible for any home to be really blessed of God. One of the things I remember most from childhood days, and which has left an indelible impression upon me, was the affection which existed between my mother and father. I witnessed this constantly as they were neither afraid nor ashamed to let their children see their mutual love. The kind word, the loving glance, the tender caress; there was always that consideration for each other. If the home is going to be what it should be there must be a sound basis of love and this must exist and be manifest first of all in the parents.
One further thing about affection and love. It is something that has to be tended and cared for. It is not unusual to see or hear of couples who, after years of married life, drift into a lukewarmness or almost an attitude of indifference toward each other though they may still be together outwardly. Tenderness and affection do not seem to matter any more and there is not the consideration which was once shown. What a tragedy! Love is something which is living, and anything which is living must be well cared for.
As far as is possible we shall draw facts from the Word of God so that in our consideration of the home all may ring with absolute authority. Whether this conforms to modern thinking does not matter, since as Christians we take the Word of God as our sole authority and guide for belief and behaviour. There are four features which should characterise the home. Of course, there may well be others but there are at least four which are fundamental to the well-being of that atmosphere which pleases God and proves a blessing to all. We shall see that there must be discipline, obedience, respect and confidence. Where these are in evidence we shall see a well-ordered, happy Christian home.
Discipline in the Home
This is essential. If there is no discipline in the home, its intended blessedness by God will be completely undermined. Not that rigid disciplinarianism is meant. Children cannot be ruled by an inflexible rod of iron but discipline is nonetheless necessary. How objectionable is the thoroughly spoilt child! Yet is the child really to blame? If the child has been spoilt surely the parents are to blame; they are responsible.
Discipline, to be effective in the training of children, must be with firmness and tempered by love. The Word of God records instances of homes where discipline was lacking. Do you recall the story of Eli and how his life ended in tragedy ? In 1 Samuel Godsaid of him, ‘For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not’, 3. 13. In earlier days, Eli had had two fine boys around him. He loved them. He watched them at their play, at their pranks and even when they were guilty of some wrong-doing. What did he do? Whilst he remonstrated with them he failed to curb them, he failed to restrain them. They grew into youths and then into men. All along, the indiscipline fostered evil in their character. They sinned against God, against the nation and against their father, 2. 12-17, 22-25. But notice that the upshot of all this was that God judged Eli, 3. 13. God condemned Eli because, knowing the sin of his sons, ‘he restrained them not’. Let a child have his head; let him be given opportunity for ‘free expression’; let him damage and break things because it eases him inside, and you are directly contributing to the undermining of his character. But discipline tempered with love will produce Godhonouring fruit.
David provides us with another warning as to the harvest of indiscipline. David was a wonderful man, a man after God’s own heart. He had a son whose name was Adonijah. We read in 1 Kings that ‘Adonijah . . . exalted himself, saying, I will be king: . . . And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so?’, 1. 5-6. There had been a complete lack of discipline and Adonijah almost brought calamity upon the whole family because David had failed to reprove him, restrain him and train him in earlier years.
How true are the words of the proverb, ‘The rod and reproof give wisdom: But a child left to himself bringeth his mother shame’, 29. 15; see also 13. 24; 22. 15; 23. 13-14. Frequently failure in disciplining children results in a similar sad harvest in families today. And these are not the words of a hard disciplinarian,’ ‘a tough old boy’. But we need to emphasise the fundamental importance of a well-ordered home. As Paul counsels, ‘ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord’, Eph. 6. 4 R.V. We have a great responsibility as we administer discipline. Some parents will cut across everything and say to a child, ‘that is my word and that is what you must do’, even when the child is objecting strongly. The onlooker may get the impression often that ‘that child has something in the back of its mind’ although it is not right to interfere. Let us be careful that we are reasonable with our discipline and that the child understands. Also let us see to it that we try to see things from the child’s angle. Sometimes children are right and if they are, let us be big enough to own up that we had taken the wrong attitude, not being fully acquainted with the facts. Oh it needs all the wisdom, discretion and grace which is available for us! We need to seek our God and Father for guidance in this matter of discipline. All too often we deal with our children according to our own whims. The Father of our spirits is only concerned with our highest good and will give us grace to follow His example in our family circle; see Heb. 12. 9-11.
One further point. The Scriptures say that the husband should rule the house. This is not a very popular idea. In fact, some ladies would not submit to this or even to say ‘love, honour and obey’ in the marriage lines. Nonetheless, the man is the scriptural head, and there is deep significance attached to this. The wife is a help-meet. There is no provision for an equal share of authority. The woman has a tremendously important role to fulfil as both wife and mother. She is the homemaker, the one who supports and confirms the husband and father, but the husband should rule his house; cf. 1 Tim. 3. 4; 5. 14.
Obedience in the Home
How vital this is. We read ‘Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest live long on the earth’, Eph. 6. 1-3. Disobedience to parents is repeatedly mentioned in the Word of God as the symptom of formidable evil. It causes a breakdown in the home and if, at this centre of character-development, there is division and disobedience, ultimately the effect will be felt in society at large. Young people are often of the opinion that obedience is not so important nowadays. Although we live in a very different age from that of N.T. times, this does not cancel out the need for obedience as a priority in the home. If young people are going to disobey their parents, they will be disobedient every where they go. If they have never been trained at home, when they go to school they will be disobedient there also. In later life, when they go to business, they will often prove to be headstrong and difficult too.
In Romans 1 we read of those who are ‘backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents’, v. 30. This catalogue of evils links disobedience to parents with hatred of God and pride. Paul in writing to Timothy said, ‘This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy’, 2 Tim. 3.1-2. Here disobedience to parents is linked with blasphemy, unthankfulness and unholiness. Disobedience to our parents is sinning against God, and it is a grievous sin. Young Christian, we would impress upon you the seriousness, the gravity of this sin. We know that none of us is perfect but are we prepared to seek forgiveness when we have been disobedient? Are we quick to come before God not only that we might be forgiven but also to seek grace to gain the victory over ourselves?
You will recall the occasion when Saul was commissioned to destroy the nation of Amalek with all its precious things, its cattle and its sheep. When the battle was over Samuel was told to meet Saul. The prophet asked Saul, ‘What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?’, 1 Sam. 15. 14. Saul made excuses which he thought were very reasonable; he also put the blame on other people, vv. 15, 20-21. But all this did not alter the fact that he had disobeyed God. Samuel said solemnly to Saul, ‘Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry’, vv. 22-23.
Let us apply this to a hypothetical situation. Supposing your father or your mother asks you to do something and you flatly refuse or conversely you do something which had been forbidden. That is disobedience. You may think that your parents are not ‘with it’ or that they just do not understand the circumstances but this is no reason to please yourself. Some time later perhaps you may decide to try to make up for your disobedience. If for instance you wash the dishes for Mum or do a bit of work in the garden for Dad would this make up for the disobedience? Would this put everything right again? Certainly not! Because they have been grieved by the flouting of their authority, all else is of no avail until the matter has been cleared up. Obedience is of the utmost importance.
Respect in the Home
A verse concerning Solomon and his mother Bathsheba illustrates this beautifully. Solomon had just come to the throne; he was still on the crest of victory and success. He was a comparatively young man and he sat upon his throne surrounded by his lords, his bodyguards and his servants, with everything at his command. Then a message came to him. We read, ‘Bathsheba therefore went unto king Solomon, to speak unto him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her, and bowed himself unto her, and sat down on his throne, and caused a seat to be set for the king’s mother; and she sat on his right hand’, 1 Kings 2.19. Though now in a completely different environment with all he surveyed virtually his own, when his mother came into his presence he rose from his throne and commanded a seat to be brought for her that she might sit at his side.
Sometimes today this type of respect is almost absent. Young Christians, you do not realise perhaps the thrill felt by your parents when you show due respect? We sometimes see young people quite respectful outside their own homes in the company of other people but who show little or no respect to their parents. They think they can treat their parents just as they like. Perhaps this is not true of you, but how careful we need to be about this. Remember, if there is one thing that will touch the hearts of your parents as much as anything else it is genuine respect for them.
Do you remember the occasion when David was fleeing for his life from Saul? He was going to hide himself in a stronghold, in the cave of Adullam. But whilst he was rushing here and there making the necessary preparations, he suddenly remembered his own folk. He realised that he could not expose them to the dangers and hardships which accompanied his path. Feeling that he must do something for them he ‘went thence to Mizpeh of Moab: and he said unto the king of Moab, Let my father and my mother, I pray thee, come forth, and be with you, till I know what God will do for me’, 1 Sam. 22. 3. What an illustration of the injunction, ‘Honour thy father and mother’. Perhaps it is easier to think of the old folk if success attends your way as in Solomon’s case. But sometimes there are difficulties, problems, frustrations as David discovered. Yet even when he was carrying his life in his hands, he thought about the old folk. He honoured them; he loved them and cared for their welfare and safety.
Mutual Confidence in the Home
Do we trust each other? Do we as parents trust our children? Have we enough confidence in them to rely upon their word or promise? Young Christian, do you confide in your parents? Is your answer, ‘Well, not always’. If so, what is your reason? Is it because you think that your parents would not understand or that they might be cross with you? Perhaps you think that they brush the matter aside as though it were not sufficiently important. But do you really know how they would react? Have you ever tried to take them into your confidence? If your parents sense this is so, you will find them co-operating with you, speaking to you on your level, trying to understand your difficulties and problems and helping by giving sound and experienced advice.
In the story of Abraham and Isaac there are so many lessons to learn. Notice that twice over in Genesis 22 it says, ‘they went both of them together’, vv. 6, 8. They went to worship. Do you worship with your parents? Does your family come together around the family altar? This is a wonderful thing to bring parents and children together. Reading the word of God, hearing father pray for God’s guidance, counsel and grace for each member of the household, is a blessing in itself in the home. In the story of Abraham and Isaac, the father and the son, let us watch as they leave the young men and set their faces towards Moriah. Abraham has taken the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac. But there is a greater burden on Abraham’s heart as Isaac asks the question, ‘where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’, v. 7. Abraham realises that he has to take Isaac completely into his confidence. Pausing awhile he would tell all that God has commanded him and together they would discuss again the promises of God concerning Isaac. Then they walked silently together, both of them occupied with their own thoughts. On reaching Moriah’s brow, Abraham raised his altar and laid the wood in order upon it and then turned to his son. Isaac in complete submission allowed himself to be bound and put upon the altar. Here we see the absolute confidence that existed between the father and the son and how completely they understood one another.
You see, young Christian, you must bear in mind that many experiences and problems that confront you now are so terrifying because they are new to you. You should realise that your parents have probably experienced similar things many times, perhaps even years ago. Instead of going through unnecessary anxiety and possibly taking the wrong step, you should go to your parents. Freely discuss the whole thing with them and they will be delighted to advise you. Do not think that because they are so much older than you are, that they have forgotten their experiences. If only you will give them the opportunity, their experience will prove an untold blessing to you.
Let us see to it then, that there always exists in our homes a healthy relationship and a clear and full appreciation of each other. May the Lord give us grace to observe these four essentials in the home. There must be discipline, obedience, respect and confidence and He will grant His blessing which maketh rich.