23 Oct Family – the church closest to home
There are virtues that are a common denominator in a Christian family and church and can be game changers in building the home. If one has learnt the art of applying them in the church, they can be successfully applied in the home and vice versa. Both, the family and the church are in the midst of a constant battle – spiritual battle – that is so invisible and mysterious (just like corona virus) that we just cannot believe it’s happening right in the vicinity that we are living. No wonder just like Covid19 infection and its aftermath, there are many Christian homes and churches cracking and breaking so easily. What can keep the family united and strong are instructions which Paul the apostle gave to the churches – at Ephesus, Phillipi and Romans
Ephesians 4:2 – 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Phillipians 2:3 – 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves
Romans 12:10 – 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
All these verses if obeyed in letter and spirit, are bound to keep the unity and peace in a family just like a church. We become one when we get married, we just have to maintain the unity. While we can pick up several virtues and build a case for unity I will restrict to a few for now.
Late William Barclays, Greek scholar writes that, “Before Christianity humility was not counted as a virtue at all. The ancient world looked on humility as a thing to be despised… In classical Greek there is no word for humility” Many New Testament writers make a mention of Humility.
This is one humble virtue, if available in large measure within a family, can keep the unity of the family like no other because many virtues are hidden in this one virtue. As humility is unleashed the others come out one by one. For eg. Forgiveness – a humble person can forgive easily while a proud person finds it hard. Other virtues like kindness, love, patience, tolerance in a family are often practiced by humble people. Humility is one virtue Christians should be the first to practice and should come naturally, yet it’s a virtue we struggle to produce. Why? Because we forget our beginnings. A wretched, hopeless, hell bound sinner forgiven by the Lord gets a permanent place in the eternal glorious kingdom by sheer grace. I have to do nothing, literally! What more we need to stay humble?
During a conflict between husband and wife, usually the humble of the two at that moment takes the lead in asking forgiveness and resolves the conflict. During a conflict when one wins the argument, the marriage is lost but a humble Christian will never strive to win the argument but win the marriage. Winning an argument only fuels the pride in us. Look at your own married life. Could you have resolved your conflicts better if you were humble, but pride came in the way?
How many a broken Christian homes could have been saved if humility had dominated the conversation yet pride subtly rules in our homes and we don’t even realize. I call pride the silent killer of homes, just like BP and Diabetes are silent killer of lives. If not recognized and treated on time, it can slowly bring a crack, widen the crack and one day blow up and destroy the home.
Paul could not find a better example than Jesus for perfect humility who considered himself nothing although he was God the Son. The Lord could not die on the cross unless he humbled and he did that because of his agape love for us. Those who agape love their spouse are willing to be humble.
Honoring and valuing your spouse above yourself
This one is an offshoot of humility. Paul writes, in humility value others above yourself and elsewhere he writes, honour one another above yourself. Honour means to regard or treat (someone) with admiration and great respect. But our natural self wants honour for ourselves. We want to be treated well by our spouse, we want to be admired and to be respected – That’s our natural self.
But this verse tells us to do exactly the reverse – Honour your wife or husband above yourselves, give preference to other in honour. I like how ESV mentions this verse – “Outdo one another in showing honour”. We should be literally competing with our spouse by honouring them above ourselves – holding them in high esteem in the church, at home before children, among your parents – their in-laws and in public. By doing this you are actually increasing the value of your spouse and guess who the beneficiary is? You and the Marriage! Do you remember when you last honoured or valued your spouse more than yourself? What can be the result? An outstanding marriage, an extraordinary marriage and God glorifying marriage.
Gentleness or Meekness
The Greek word for Gentle or Meek is prautes and William Barclay writes “This is a great Greek word which has no precise English equivalent. Aristotle defined it as the mean between excessive anger and excessive angerlessness; it is the quality of the man whose feelings and emotions are under perfect control.”
Losing control over emotions mostly happens in homes and sadly for our loved ones, who deserve a better treatment for all that they mean to us and do for us. We are normally under control with our office colleagues or friends because there are consequences, sometimes irreversible consequences for temper tantrums. But who cares if I blow my top at home? Usually it is the weaker partner who ends up at the wrong end of the emotions. The spouse who thinks superior will often raise their voice, lose their cool and be often demanding.
How can such a marriage be honouring to God where there is no equality and respect? Many times words spoken freely and carelessly are a result of lack of meekness — power not under control. I can be technically right in a given circumstances compared to my spouse but can do wrong by letting out words loosely and uncontrollably, only to regret later.
While humility is an attitude and honouring your spouse is a willful act, gentleness is choosing not to act when it is in your power to act.
I know you are tempted to think which one of these virtues your spouse lacks. How about you, which of the three you want to cultivate? Remember your family is the closest church to your home.
The author of this article Mr. Norbert lives with his family in South India and is actively involved in UESI ministry