Can you help me understand what it means to build a family life that is truly founded upon Christian values? My spouse is always talking about the importance of having a "Christ-centered home," but I don't really know what that means. I grew up in a family where people's actions rarely matched their religious words, and I don't want to repeat that pattern. Any ideas?
It's a shame that your religious upbringing has left you with such a bad taste in your mouth. There have always been tares mixed in with the wheat, hypocrites among the saints, and sanctimonious Pharisees in the church. We're all fallen people, so there's always the danger that even the best and most sincere believer might at some point fall into the trap of parading a mere "form of godliness" while "denying the power thereof" (2 Timothy 3:5). But that doesn't prove that God doesn't exist or that Christ can't make His influence felt in our lives in very real and unmistakable ways. And it doesn't imply that there's no such thing as "a Christ-centered home."
What is a "Christ-centered home?" One thing's certain: it's not a home governed by dead, restrictive "religious" rules. Instead, it's a place where family members live their lives under the "bright shadow" of the presence of the Son of God – where people speak and act and relate to one another in the awareness that Jesus Himself is an intimately concerned participant in everything they do. It's a household of which it can truly be said, "Christ is the Head of this house, the Unseen Guest at every meal, the Silent Listener to every conversation."
How does this "Christ-centeredness" play itself out in the practical details of everyday life? To a certain extent it expresses itself differently from situation to situation. Every Christian family, like every Christian individual, is a poem (Greek poiema, "workmanship") written by God (Ephesians 2:10), and every poem is unique. But there are some common features we can expect to find in every genuinely Christ-centered home.
- Joy is characteristic of a truly Christian home. Having said this, it's important to understand that joy and happiness are not necessarily the same thing. Happiness is a result of what happens to us. Joy has deeper roots. Every marriage and every family will experience trials and hardships of various kinds, but there is no circumstance that can rob us of our joy if we know that the key to our present welfare and future destiny lies in Christ alone.
- A Christian home is orderly. As the apostle Paul says, "God is not the author of confusion but of peace" (1 Corinthians 14:33). In an important sense, this home is guided by Thoreau's famous dictum: "Simplify, simplify, simplify!" It is purposely not in chaos. The tyranny and bedlam of the world are required to stay outside. The members of the household regularly review everything that's allowed in. Should it stay? Does it build up the family? Does it encourage people to value one another over things?
- A Christ-centered home should be marked by grace. It should be a safe place to mess up. Family members need the ointment of grace applied to the wounds of their hearts. They need to remember that love, not perfection, is the goal. There's enough hostility, judgment, sarcasm, biting humor, and antagonism out in the world. Home should be a retreat where the hurting can find comfort, rest and healing.
- A Christian home is a place of service. Its atmosphere is tempered and flavored with acts of kindness, respect, humility, and love. This is where husbands and wives discover that serving each other in Christ is primary; that service to others in the outside world is built upon an attitude of selflessness at home; and that all of life, including the mundane duties of laundry, housekeeping, and lawn-mowing, can be sacred.
- A Christ-centered home is a place where the spiritual disciplines are practiced. It provides an environment where every member of the family learns how to live by studying the Scriptures, praying, meditating on God's Word, and spending time alone in the presence of the Lord.
- A Christian home is based on God's purposes for every member of the household. It's a place where the family's goals are founded upon His values and where the corporate vision of the future is consistent with His plan. Developing a family "Mission Statement" can be a wonderful place to start crafting a genuinely Christ-centered home. The guiding principles embodied in this document should be flexible but consistent. From beginning to end, they should reflect your eternal focus and express your deep hope of seeing Jesus face to face one day.
If you need help applying these ideas to your personal situation, Focus on the Family has a staff of counselors who would love to discuss your questions with you over the phone.
Loving God by Loving My Family: Gary Thomas talks about how loving your wife and children is a way of loving God.
Teaching Kids About God
Spiritual Growth for Kids