Sunday Morning Message
Living a Christian life in your home
Based on Colossians 3
One of television’s most popular shows for home design and remodel was “Fixer Upper.” This show takes you into the life of a family whose passion is to inspire others to own their home. They take an old, rundown fixer–upper house in the heart of Waco, Texas and transform it into a beautiful, masterfully created home. What is a home? It is the place where love casts out all fear, where we are surrounded and supported by those who love us unconditionally and who welcome us despite our failures. It is not defined by four walls, but rather it’s the place where we share our life with others. Our faith in Jesus not only changes who we are as people but it should also change our homes. Sometimes we need God to intervene and fix up the home He desires for us.
By some accounts, American homes are radically failing. Both mothers and fathers are working outside of the home, often leaving children to fend for themselves. Single parent homes are on the rise, putting a strain on the family as they try to cover all the bases. What our American homes have become seems far from ideal. Is this what God intended? He established the home at the very beginning of creation (Gen 2:18–25). But because of sin, there has been a breakdown of the structure known as “home.” Centuries ago Confucius said: “The strength of a nation is derived from the integrity of its homes.” Each one of us can contribute to building godly homes. Through God’s Word we can discover key components in our relationship with Christ, and others, that will lead to Christ–centered homes.
I recently conducted a Facebook poll and asked: “What qualities do you hope your home represents to your family and to others? What makes your home a home for you?” The most popular responses were love, safety, forgiveness, accountability and peace. Each one of us has the desire to be welcomed into a household where these qualities reside, but most importantly where unconditional love is the foundation. So we must ask ourselves today, how do we compete in the world to capture such an environment when we know it is lost to many? We must operate out of a position of love.
In creating a home, top designers always have plans and tips, many of which include the following elements: A focal point, pieces that make a space, and warm layers. I would like to use these elements as we look at how God desires our Christian homes to be designed. Let us open God’s Word and read together from Colossians 3:12 – 4:1 (NIV).
It is important for us to know the history of the day when the Apostle Paul was writing this letter. When Paul laid the groundwork for peace and stability he was very aware of the breakdown of society during the Roman reign of Caesar Augustus who ruled for 41 years. Paul was a Jew who converted to Christianity. He was also a Roman citizen very connected with the lifestyle during these times. He confronted the deeper values of the citizens in the passage just read. The propaganda of the empire was the Pax Romana, which promised security and prosperity. The Apostle Paul began and ended his letter with a different way of thinking than that of Augustus.
To understand the Roman context in which Paul’s letter was written, we must look at parallel passages taken from other letters of Paul written during this same period of time. The Roman Empire was in crisis in 29 BC. Augustus believed that with strong security and prosperity, life would begin to be shaped more peacefully in homes. Augustus also understood that there also needed to be order inside the domestic life in the empire. It meant that he was promoting the Roman family, the familia in Latin.
The familia to Augustus is not what we consider to be an average family: two parents, two children, a dog, a car, a house surrounded with love and empathy. Rather, Augustus believed the rebuilding of the familia would be the foundation of the empire. He would come to be considered the father of the Roman Empire. He set out to restore, “fix up” and go back to a time when the family was much stronger. It is like our recollections: “Remember when … kids did not have cell phones? When we actually had to go to the library to find resources? When we had to walk to school and actually grow our own crops instead of pulling up to the Walmart® call ahead service?”
The Pieces of the Home
The familia (the pieces a designer needs to make a home) was a household—a community of people who lived and worked together. It always consisted of a husband, wife, children and slaves. The order of the society brought codes to live by and order to be maintained. They believed such things would bring stability, not only to homes, but also to the entire empire. The head of the household, the father, would be the oldest male member of family. The father owned everything in the household and was legally responsible. He could keep children or kill them. He had the choice and the authority. His wife was his property along with his children and slaves. There was no such thing as childhood development. Statistics of the day show that fifty percent of the children died before the age of 10; and because of this, it affected the way people thought of children in the Roman world. They had no protection and were forced to labor when very young. The final components of the Roman family were slaves. They were not racial slaves, but slaves awarded by conquest. Slavery was pouring into Rome during this time so that there were possibly two to three million slaves out of a population of seven million. This is the world to which Paul was writing. This type of family system had been in place for 75 years, and the empire was dependent on it. So Paul, a Christian leader anointed by God, entered this cultural millieu and shared a new way to design the household.
What Paul writes in Colossians 3 gives insight into the way God has directed the family. He also penned two other letters at the same time—Ephesians and Philemon. Ephesians 5:21–6:9 is a parallel passage to Colossians 3. Paul enjoined wives to submit, not to obey legalistically, but to behave with respect. In her world, a woman had no power over anything. Paul said the wife should treat her “husband” with respect. This is paralleled in Ephesians 5:21, 22: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Submission is a character virtue. Submit to your husband as is fitting to the Lord. Paul says her measure of submission is no longer Rome, but rather that of Christ, which goes against those times.
Paul then addresses the husband who has both power and authority. He says, “husbands, love your wives.” In the ancient Roman world, there was no expectation of love between a husband and wife. Paul says the husband is to love and not be harsh. In Ephesians 5:25, he is to “Love (his) wife as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her.” This was totally contrary to societal expectations.
Children were property; they were not considered people. In Ephesians 6, Paul connects obedience with the commandant, “Honor your father and your mother.” Rather than a matter of fear, such honor is to be an act of worship. You honor God in the way you obey your parents. In Colossians 3:21, Paul says, “Do no embitter your children.” He knew fathers can impose a great amount of fear. Paul writes, treat them as people, with “sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.”
A British criminal by the name of John H. Starkey was very evil and murdered his wife. When he died, officials called upon General William Booth to conduct his funeral. At the ceremony, Booth was surrounded by those who spoke about Starkey’s evil life. Booth’s first words to the crowd gave them all pause. “John H. Starkey never had a praying mother,” he said. Children are to be raised in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Children also need to have godly parents who will teach them the ways of the Lord.
Paul then finally brings slaves into the picture. He wanted to transform the relationship between slaves and master. Unfortunately, Paul didn’t have the authority to overrule slavery, but he could subvert it. Paul said that a slave who is a Christian is accountable to God and He would reward him. He must work as if doing it for the Lord. In Ephesians 6:9 Paul urged, “And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know both your Master and his is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with Him.” Your Master is not Augustus, not the “father” of your household here on earth, but rather God, who is sitting on the throne in Heaven. All are accountable to Him.
The letter to Philemon was written at the same time as Colossians. It is a letter Paul wrote about a runaway slave. The slave had been converted but then had to return to his hometown and confront his slave master, Philemon. “Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever—no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother,” Paul writes in Philemon 1:15-16. “He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.” Paul said to think of your slave as “a dear brother,” which was a very different way of thinking.
Focal Point of the Home
If a Christian household is different, people will notice. And they will see the “charity/love” Paul wrote about in Colossians 3:13-15 (NIV):
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”
Warm Layers of the Home
What does this statement mean to us today? When Christ enters a person’s heart, authority and mastership in our households are repositioned. Seven times in Colossians 3 Paul declares who is in charge—the Lord. Many of us have a sign hanging in our homes from Joshua 24:15, which states, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” Are we truly serving the Lord by the way we show agape love, forgiveness, grace, mercy and peace? Are we allowing the Lord to be the head of our homes and of ourselves? There are many ways we go wrong in our families, but the one way to go right is to be sure that Jesus Christ is Lord and that our homes reveal warm layers of design—order and love, discipline and love, justice and love.
- What is it like at your home?
- What kind of atmosphere is created?
- Is there love or is there hate?
- Is there grace or condemnation?
- Is there forgiveness or accusation?
Imagine families today embracing this letter from the Apostle Paul. Imagine their reaction to the introduction of charity—God’s agape love in the home.
Matthew 11:28–30 from The Message states, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” The Spirit of the living God wants to reside, not only in your heart, but in the home He has blessed you with. The pieces of our families may look a little different, but the layers of love, grace, peace and charity can all be found when Christ is at the center.
Do you long for God’s love to flow in and through your home? Do you believe God’s foundation for family is greater than the inferior ways of our society today? Let’s keep and preserve the original structure of a home—God’s unconditional love. Do you need to have an overhaul of your home? Do you need the Holy Spirit to come in and do some “fixing up?”
Seek Him today. He will restore our families and make them places where we can enter and say, “Home, sweet, home!”
Time of Commitment
Wiersbe, Warren Wm. “A Family Affair.” Be Complete: Become the Whole Person God Intends You to Be, David C. Cook, 2008, pp. 139–148
Macarthur, John F. “A New Man Makes a New Home.” Macarthur New Testament Commentary, Moody Press, 2015, pp. 166–175.