THE CHRISTIAN HOME
It is very important to know from onset that there is difference between a house and a home. For anyone to have a house, as long as you have your money, you can even build a mansion. You can follow your own design or copy from someone. You can decide together with your spouse the number of storeys, whether to put a lift or not. You may even prefer to build it on the rock or valley in the cosmopolitan or village. Many rich personalities have more than one building scattered all over many countries.
To build a home start from who do you marry. According to God’s principle and injunction, marriage i.e. the two founders of home means a life-long affairs “for better or worse …till death do us part”. It is a spiritual contract, because the force that brings a man and a woman together in marriage is a mystery: that is what Paul the Apostle said in Ephesians 5:31-32 “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” that is to say that Christian marriage is God-made. It is chemistry between two people that cannot be made in a laboratory. The Bible says in Heb. 13:4 that its “honourable”. God created homes through marriage to be enjoyed. Eccl.9:9 “Enjoy life with your wife (or husband) whom you love.” It is not only a social necessity or some people call it necessary evil. Do not be put off by the bad experience of people who would not make a success of their marriage or ladies who want to be “independent and choose to be a single parents instead of getting married. I believe also that to build a Christian home does not come by accident. It is a product of conscious and conscientious work by both partners to the marriage.
To build a Christian home, my attention will centre more on the two initial builders. Just as the building of a house, enough efforts should be spent in the foundation, and adequately step by step they begin to build on it. The following are what makes a Christian home.
- RIGHT ATTITUDE: Both spouses must have the right attitudes and perspective about marriage. In a partnership, there will be normally being a senior partner and a junior partner. God made the husband the senior while the wife is the junior partner but to build a home the two must do all things in agreement. Where agreement cannot be reached, God expect that the wife as the junior partner must respect and submit to the decision of her husband.
- MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING: Both have their distinct roles and responsibilities, they must both understand each other’s roles. For example, the husband is
- The spiritual head, the pastor of the home. / He must therefore be godly to attract God’s favour and must also show example of godliness.
- The breadwinner with the responsibility to fend for and provide for the family.
- The head of the wife and the mentor of the Children should not abandon training and discipline.
- The shield for his wife and children, to protect and keep them from harm.
On the other hand, the wife is
- A helper, in all the duties of her husband, especially in the upbringing of the children.
- The home keeper, like the vitreous woman of proverb chapter 31
- The home builder – Prov. 14:1 says “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her hands”
- The encourager and counsellor of her husband. She is to her husband like a neck that makes the head turn in the right direction.
- FEAR OF GOD: Both partners should have the fear of God. They should remember always that God is a witness to their marriage and he is interested in its success, they both have responsibility to God to make the marriage work. Fear of God should translate to love of God. The two should both love, worship and serve God together. They should establish a viable Altar for the entire family to read and study the word of God together and to pray. The saying is true that the “family that prays together stays together.” When a husband and wife both have the fear and love of God and train their children to do the same, God will be, not merely a Guest in their home but a permanent president which makes the home a complete Christian home.
- MUTUAL RESPECT AND SUBMISSION: The admonition of Paul to both husband and wife (before taking them in turns) is “submit to one another out of reference for Christ” Eph.5:21. There must be mutual respect, and submission between husband and wife. However, although respect is a mutual need between the husband and the wife, the man needs it more because of his normally sensitive ego. The wife must show humble respect to her husband in public, especially before his relations and friends. This is not limited to the husband; it extends to the husbands parents and relations. In Yoruba culture, it is considered rude for a woman to call her husband’s siblings by name, even if they are junior to her in age. The Bible enjoins wives to submit to their husbands, as to the Lord (Eph.5:22; 1 Pet.3:1) but ‘this’ submission is not a slavish submission or subservience but a loving submission, borne out of respect and also fear of God. A woman’s submission to her husband is like stooping low to conquer. A woman who wants to build a home can indeed wield an enormous power and control over her husband, but if only and firstly she has a submissive spirit.
- MUTUAL PROTECTION: Husband and wife in a Christian home must mutually protect each other – physically, spiritually and all otherwise. The wife must protect her husband from internal and external hazards, from strange women even from over working himself. She must be a constant spiritual watchman and intercessor for him. Example is David’s wife Michal, she leaked her father’s (Saul) plot to kill her husband and she refused to be an accessory to his assassination, helping him to escape instead (1 Sam.19:11). When it comes to choosing between parents or relatives and one’s husband, a home builder woman must choose her husband. However, protection is more of the duty of the husband. When a woman leaves the comfort and security of her parents’ home to join her husband, the husband becomes like a big brother or even a father to her. The husband should protect and defend her from harassment or intimidation, especially by his relations and friends. He must not expose her weakness to anybody. He should act like a man, bold and courageous. Women don’t respect husbands who quickly climb the ceiling at the faintest sound of a noise in the night.
- MUTUAL CARE, LOVE AND ATTENTION: Although every human being needs love, care and attention but in a Christian home, the woman needs them more, especially from her husband, because God has ordained that the women’s desire shall be for her husband (Gen. 3:16). A woman likes to feel loved and appreciated. That is why God commands husbands to love their wives as their own bodies. Eph.5:25. Love consists in giving. No matter how busy a man is, in a Christian home, he should create time to be with his wife and give her a listening ear and attention, even if he is not so interested in what she is saying. A woman likes to share her experiences in her office or business with her husband. A good Christian husband must share his wife’s worries, concerns, and anxieties and proffer solutions. Show understanding and tolerance for his wife’s faults and foibles. After all, no one is an angel; he has his own fault too. For this reason the scripture enjoins husband “Be considerable as you live with your wives and treat them with respect as the weaker partner” (1 Pet. 3:7). This is not only about woman; the man also needs his wife’s love, care and attention. No man likes a wife who nags all the time or is only interested in herself.
- COMPANIONSHIP is a vital nutrient of marriage, home succeeds better when husband and wife take each other, not only as lovers, but also as best friends and enjoy each other’s company more than the company of outside friends, colleagues, parents or relations. There are things a husband and wife should always do together for the bond of love and friendliness to remain strong, they should talk together, eat together, play together, sleep together and pray together. This togetherness in everything promises intimacy and the “I can’t do without you” feelings.
Do you wonder why a person who lost his or her spouse even in old age may still want to re-marry? The general Superintendent of a leading Bible Church in Nigeria who was in his 70’s, re-married after the death of his wife sometimes ago, and some people wondered what a septuagenarian needed a woman for at that age – was it children or sex? No. Companionship is even more important in a Christian home than physical pleasures and the love of children.
- GRACIOUS CONVERSATION
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6)
Conversation is an art that a man and woman in marriage should learn and cultivate, to avoid unnecessary and unwanted offence and friction. Gracious conversation is conversation that is kind, polite and tactful. It means saying the right thing at the right time, with the right tone, at the right pitch and with the right emphasis. There is a difference between talking to, talking with someone. Some people don’t like to be shouted at or for a person to raise his/her voice when speaking with them. But good conversation can promote cordiality, conviviality and pleasantness in the home. The Bible says, “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).
Gracious conversation will soothe any angry feelings but uncouth conversation can turn a simple talk into an argument. A couple was said to have fought on something as inconsequential as a tube of toothpaste. The husband liked to press it at the bottom while the wife always pressed it at the middle. After one or two corrections and the woman failed to change, the husband angrily made an abusive remark; ‘some people in this house are so incorrigible’. The wife heard and retorted: ‘Much ado about nothing; how much is a tube of toothpaste that they won’t allow us to rest?’ This led to an angry altercation that eventually resulted in blows. The problem was not the tooth paste but the poor conversation. The Bible again says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stairs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
A wife who knows the art of gracious conversation will easily get her way with a stubborn or difficult husband.
Money is an important ingredient for the success of Christian home. Many things in the home require money – upkeep of the home, social and material comfort, physical security, future development, etc. Financial hardship is one major cause of marital troubles that can lead to home failure.
Without intending any insult, I can say that generally women like money more than men. If a man wants to keep his wife happy and his home peaceful, he must not joke with the housekeeping money. He will get his wife’s extra attention if he occasionally adds a bonus to it.
Money problems are sometimes a cause of marital conflict and it is important that a Christian couple pay attention to it.
From experience, I know that a woman can be very free with her husband on the issue of money if the husband is open with her on his own finances. Even without surrendering her pay packet to him, a substantial part of what the woman earns is often spent on her husband, their children and the home.
- GOOD FOOD IN GOOD TIME
It is said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Men love good food. A man appreciated nothing better than to come home from work after a tiring day and meet a delicious meal waiting for him on the table. Lack of good and timely food sometimes drives some men out to local food joints or into the waiting arms of strange women who know how to seduce other women’s husbands with tasty dishes.
One of the things a man cherishes in a wife is her culinary qualities – ability to cook good food. A man who cannot trust his wife’s cooking skill would be afraid to invite his friends to his home. A wise woman who wants to keep her husband and enjoy her marriage should work on her cooking ability.
I must also mention that a loving husband will not leave his wife all alone to the kitchen work. He will always lend a helping hand, especially when they are alone together at home.
- SEX AND ROMANCE
Sex, like good food, is important (if not more important than food) to the average man. While food meets the physical needs, sex meets a man’s physiological needs. A hungry man, they say, is an angry man. A man may easily pardon his wife if his food delays, but if denied sex when he needs it, he might fume for days on end, until his demand is met. The need for sex often comes to the average man as an urge so strong and compulsive that he could do anything to satisfy it. That is why some undisciplined men take their housemaids to bed or patronize harlots.
While physical food is said to be the way to a man’s heart, sex is the highway or expressway to his pocket. Women who know this often exploit it to get whatever they want from their man, as the average man would not think twice before making any promise just to get what he wants at that moment. In the same vein, when a woman wants a special obligation form her husband, she would very readily submit to his sexual demands. Sex is a marital duty that both husband and wife owe each other and the Bible enjoins the one not to deny the other of it unnecessarily (1 Corinthians 7:3-5).
A man’s need for sex has nothing to do with his level of spirituality. Don’t think that perhaps because your husband is a pastor, he will have less need of sex. It might even be the tonic he needs to minister powerfully in the church.
I wish to state however that sex goes along with romance. Romance is what makes sex enjoyable; sex without romance is like tea without sugar, tasteless and boring. A marriage relationship should be characterized by romance, not only when they want to make love; romance does not have to lead to copulation every time. A couple should delight to touch, hug, kiss, fondle, cuddle and nestle each other often and call each other pet names, especially when at home. Even when they are out, they can hold hands, hug and peck when the occasion allows it.
Most problems in a Christian home start with sexual disharmony. It is often the cause of marital infidelity and in the extreme, polygamy. Where there is sexual conflict, faults are found where there are none and little problems get blown out of proportion.
- OPENNESS AND TRANSPARENCY
It is important that the Christian husband and wife should be completely open and honest to each other. The Bible says in Genesis 2:25, “The man and his wife were naked, but they were not ashamed”. There should be no secretes between them, whether about their past or the present. This applies to health, relationships, finances, investment or any other issues. A secret puts the one keeping it in bondage and the other one in darkness. When that happens, trust, which is the basis of any thriving relationship, is destroyed.
A husband and wife should be willing to confess their misdeeds to each other and also forgive each other. When there is openness and transparency, there is freedom and mutual trust.
- GODLY PARENTING
One important thing that contributes to and sustains the joy of a Christian home is the presence of godly and successful children. The Bible calls them ‘olive shoots around our table’ (Psalm 128:3). Every Christian couple likes to have their children around now and then or receive good news about them.
In addition, the presence of children makes a marriage more likely to endure, no matter what difficulties it may be passing through.
Children are a gift of God to a marriage, but godly and successful children are a product of the joint efforts of the father and mother. The Bible commands ‘fathers’ to bring up their children in the training and fear of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4) but this cannot be done alone by the father.
Christian parents must pay attention to their children’s all-round development – physically, mentally, psychologically, morally and spiritually. The Bible says about Jesus, “And the child grew and became strong (physical/psychological), filled with wisdom (moral/mental); and the favour of God was upon him (spiritual)” (Luke 2:40), indicating His all-round development. Christian parents must pay adequate attention to their children’s education and training – send them to the best schools that they can afford. They must be interested in the friends their children keep, as this can affect their character development. They should lead their children to the Lord early in life and monitor their spiritual growth. Practice of regular daily prayer and Bible study by the whole family – will be a great help in this regard.
If the parents are not united in the discipline of their children, may be one is too harsh whole the other is too soft, or they each have favourites among them, thus polarizing the home, it usually leads to trouble, as we see in the home of Isaac and Rebecca. We have seen instances of marriages breaking down due to disagreement on children. A Christian couple will do everything to avoid this type of situation, so that what God gives as a blessing to spice up marriage will not become its curse.
In conclusion, to build a Christian home requires that both couple must be born again so that the fear of God will be the guiding principle that will be understood by both husband and wife. The secret of bonding together of Christian couple is in their ability to know and understand the purpose of God for marriage whereby whenever there is a challenge either big or small, what will be paramount in the heart of the duo is the unbroken cord that joined them together. Whoever is priviledged to have a Christian home will experience a kingdom here on earth. No matter the beauty of a house, if the home is not built, the marriage is not worthy of any blessing and not reliable. Christian couple does not necessarily needs a structure called a house before building a home. Many tenants enjoy their home better than many landlords who live in agony with their spouse.
May the good Lord build a Christian home for all of us and those of us already enjoying our will never hit a rock. Amen.
Your friend and Bishop,
Rt. Revd. Dr. J. Akin Atere
Bishop, Diocese of Awori