But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. - 1Timothy 5:8
In a nation where the majority of citizens claim to have "a personal relationship" with Jesus Christ, how is it that babies keep being murdered at a rate of 1.3 million per year? How is it that women continue to take on more positions in which, by design and intent, they exercise authority over men? How is it that the family meal has died? That what my Dad called "that huckster" now owns the center of our living room and dying room? That no one practices hospitality any more—except perhaps at restaurants or hotels? That husbands love internet sluts instead of the wife of their youth? That one fifth of our nation's women now arrive at their early forties never having given birth to a child?
Really, the older I get the more sense it makes to me that the New Testament Epistles place such constant and heavy emphasis on simple (or should I say foundational) household matters. Do we really think that killing babies, women sleeping with women and men with men, children defying their fathers, mothers abandoning their children and home for a public life, husbands loving prostitutes instead of the virtuous wife God gave them, wives refusing to submit to their husbands and taking over the leadership of the church and state, smutty plays and drama and poetry, and spoiled cats and dogs are things unknown in the world of the early Christians?
Why, the Early Church fathers even wrote exhortations to their flock to go out and pick up the children exposed on the hillsides behind their homes, instead of wasting their money feeding dogs. Is this relevant to us, dear brothers and sisters—relevant at all?
True Christian faith cannot exist where the husband doesn't love his wife, the wife doesn't submit to her husband, the father and mother make orgasmic, but not unitive and procreative love; where the father fails to discipline and the mother fails to care for the children God has given them; where the children dishonor their father and mother, the family doesn't work, eat, travel, worship, and rest in the light and instruction of God's Word, and the poor and needy are not brought in to share in what should be the abundance of familial comfort and love. Such foundational things are the never-fail fruit of true Christian faith. After all, the just live by faith.
If ideas have consequences, Christian faith should always bear fruit. If Scripture is our only infallible rule of faith and practice, the fruit of Christian faith should start in the home with very organic matters. You know, lifelong, heterosexual, monogamous, covenantal marriage; being fruitful and multiplying so that God may receive His godly seed; husbands loving only their wives, and sacrificially; wives submitting to their husbands as unto the Lord, calling him "lord;" children honoring and obeying their parents; fathers giving themselves to their children without reserve, showing great tenderness, oozing with real affection; fathers demonstrating their love through discipline and never failing to instruct the family in the dogmatic doctrine of Scripture; and dinner tables and bedrooms always filled with life and love that breaks out past our human blood-lines to the poor and needy, weak and oppressed, travelers and homeless, the depressed, orphans, widows, spinsters, the frail and abandoned, sick and dying.
Tenderness, love, and affection intermingled naturally with discipline and belly laughs—that's the family life of sinners who have been plucked out of the wrath of God by His Only Begotten Son, our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. Merriment, tears, hard work, submission, affection, honoring one another; and physical intimacy that is delightful and fruitful. Physical intimacy that is biblical. Physical intimacy that rises above mutual narcissism to an act of faith in God's provision for the next generation.
We love because He first loved us.
But of course, moderns turn everything on its head. Men with men and women with women instead of one woman with one man and one man with one woman. Promiscuity instead of fidelity. Prenups instead of a covenant. Pornography instead of the lovely breasts of the wife of one's youth. Day care instead of motherhood. And all of it as sterile as faithlessness can be.
Honestly, until pastors and elders exhort the members of their flock concerning home matters with the same words and boldness that characterizes the written record of the pastoral care of the early church known as the Epistles of the New Testament, doing it both publicly and individually ("from house to house"), no other aspect of our ministry matters. We cannot be faithful shepherds and remain blissfully ignorant of the affection and purity of our church's husbands, the submissiveness and domesticity of her wives, the obedience of her children, the fruitfulness of her marriage beds, the hospitality of her dining room tables and bedrooms, the biblical instruction of her children, and the care of her aged.
It would be good for each of us called to the office of shepherd to ask ourselves when the last time was that we were in a home speaking to a husband and wife personally about faith and holiness? And not nebulously, but following the Apostles by personally exhorting the husband to love his wife as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for Her; and personally exhorting the wife to submit to her husband in everything, not giving way to fear, but putting her trust in God.
Let judgment begin, and let it begin in the households of God.
Where there is no Christian home, there is no Christian faith.
(This post originally appeared in a slightly modified form in 2008.)