Previous article in this series: March 1, 2015, p. 259.
In my last article I addressed the truth that the covenant home must be a sheltered environment. God’s people must be a separate and holy people in the world. They are called to condemn the wickedness of the world and to be consecrated to God in a life of holiness. Our children need to be trained in the sheltered environment of the covenant family. The goal of this training, however, is not that the family can live in isolation.
That we as God’s people are called to be separate in order to be holy, does not mean that we can leave the world—at least not until the Lord takes us to heavenly glory. God leaves us in the world to be a witness in the world. Our children must be taught in our homes to live in the world and to be a witness of the truth of God in the world; and they must learn to be a testimony and an example of holiness and of good works.
Among the important lessons the home must teach the children is true love for the neighbor and concern for those around us. Our covenant children must be trained to be members of the communion of saints in the church where the members of this society are called to serve one another. We are not alone in the world so that we can live only for ourselves. The Lord has placed most of us in a community of fellow saints whom we must love and serve.
When God saves us, He joins us to His church. He makes us members of His church. He gives us a place in His church and a calling in His church. God has made the church to be the communion of saints, where the saints of God must dwell together in the unity of faith, in many ways dependent on each other. God has created us all with gifts and talents that we must with ready and cheerful hearts use for the other members of the communion of saints among us. None of us in the communion of saints has all the gifts necessary to be sufficient unto ourselves and to live by ourselves.
We are all by nature self-centered, dreadfully self-centered! This is the sinful nature with which we were all born. Because of this sinful inclination, the world promotes pride, egotism, and glorying in themselves. This creates the wicked tyranny of men over women. It produces such great evils as mothers who murder their own unborn children because they get in the way of their selfish ambitions. It is the evil that causes fathers to be cruel and wicked in the way they treat their own children. The depraved, self-centered nature of man has created a world full of violence and hatred and crimes against humanity that are shocking in wickedness. It creates a situation in which some in the world become powerful, egotistical rulers, who use their power and riches to oppress the poor and the disadvantaged. Men of the world live in greed and lust, thinking only about themselves, gratifying their own passions and glorying in themselves.
In the epistle of James, the inspired apostle admonishes the rich of the world for their greed, for their heaping up treasures only for themselves, and for their defrauding of their workers by keeping back from them the wages that they owe to them. All the while the Judge of all men looks down from heaven on the wickedness of men. He has ordained the day of His final judgment when He will destroy the wicked men of this world in His just and holy wrath.
Worldly labor unions cannot by their power or violence teach men to care for others. They only seek to use their power to destroy others and gain what they imagine to be their own right. Organizations of business owners—even under the requirement of law—will not become caring, loving, and benevolent for their fellow man, for that is contrary to fallen man’s depraved nature.
By the grace and Spirit of God, the Christian home in the midst of this ungodly world is God’s ideal institution to teach children not to be selfish and self-centered, but rather to serve God humbly caring for the neighbor. In the home the sins of evil self-centeredness must be driven out of the hearts of our children through daily godly instruction and discipline. Children must be taught from childhood on to love and care for the neighbor. This love must especially be evident in the society of Christians which is the God-given blessing of the communion of saints. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” ().
In the Christian home the mother has the calling from God of servanthood. God gave her that role. He has created her in a special way, suited for this role. She fulfills this calling by caring for her husband and her children, and maintaining her household well. She rises up early and works hard all day giving of herself to others. This is, in the sight of God, a very noble calling. Nothing that the women of the world do can compare to this calling. By fulfilling this calling in the home, the godly mother is a powerful example to her children. This will, by the grace of God, have a profound effect on them and will train them for the whole of their life as Christians in the world. The mother herself will find her personal satisfaction and fulfillment in serving in this role. She will have the honor of her husband and her children, and they will deeply appreciate and love her.
The father in the home, of course, also has to instruct and discipline his children to love and care for the neighbor. And though in a somewhat different way than mother, he too must be an example of a humble servant of the Lord by providing for his family and for the church and the cause of Christ’s kingdom in the world. By the grace of God this too will be an example for the children. Father must also be willing to sacrifice himself. Even when he pursues his earthly career, he must constantly keep others in mind and not have as his goal in life to enrich himself, or to make himself great. While he is called to work hard and much of his time is spent outside of the home, he keeps his wife and family in mind, laboring hard to be able to provide also for the church of Christ and the cause of His kingdom.
When we train and nurture our children in the talents that God has given to them, we do not seek to make them glorious before the world, so that they become the occasion for us to boast in ourselves. Encouraging our children to excel in sports or music or in any other areas of life has a higher, God-centered purpose. This takes a great deal of wisdom, instruction, and discipline. No one but God Himself can enable us to fulfill such a high calling.
In the covenant home children must be trained and nurtured to be willing to serve first of all in the family. Each child must be given his or her task and responsibility to fulfill in the family for serving the other members of the family. The children must be ready to give way to the other members of the family and to help and care for them in daily, practical ways. This training is of utmost importance for the children in their later calling in society.
The covenant home must train the children to love one another as members of the covenant family. God has created a close bond in the family. In the home parents must admonish and teach their children to love each other dearly and fervently. When the ugliness of sibling rivalry is present in the family, this must be rooted out with Christian admonition and discipline.
According to the subject of my last Standard Bearer article, there is a sense in which the covenant home must have a closed door. The covenant home must guard the children from the ungodly influences coming from the proud and self-centered philosophy and life style of the world.
In another way, the covenant home must have an open door. The door of the covenant home must be open for Christian hospitality to others outside of the home. As a center of hospitality the Christian home must invite others to come and enjoy the blessedness of the Christian fellowship of the home and the rich blessing of the Lord.
Hospitality for others is a glorious and blessed Christian virtue. “Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” ().
There are so many in the world and especially also in the covenant community that have special needs. The concern of our children must begin with their own brothers and sisters. Children must learn to have concern for one another and to encourage one another in their own home. When this is real in the daily life of the family, strong family ties are developed.
But there are also many in our society in need: some are sick, some are lonely, some are in trouble, some are aged and feeble, some are widows and widowers. Parents must be an example in their own lives and teach their children to be sensitive to the need of others. We must train our children to be caring and loving. No other institution in the world is better suited for such training. If the home does not give this training, in most cases the children will be grievously ill-equipped to live their Christian life.
When our homes are the centers of Christian hospitality, they provide a healthy environment for the nurture of our children. With carefully supervised hospitality, covenant life with other Christians outside of the home will be promoted. Friendships will have a beautiful beginning and be nurtured and strengthened, often enduring for life. A covenant home that is a center of Christian hospitality will be a great blessing for the whole church and a great part of her witness in the world. Visitors to the church invited to such a home will often be greatly encouraged, and sometimes even be brought into the membership of the church. Christian hospitality will support the preaching of the gospel in the church and be a testimony to the reality of Christian love in the lives of her members.