In the absence of sound moral teaching in our schools, it is more important than ever for parents to teach their children by word and by example how to live for Christ in today’s world. This message by Billy Graham offers some basic principles for a godly home.
The family used to be a close-knit group, and the home was self-contained. It was shelter; it was security; it was a kind of school where life’s basic lessons were taught; it was a kind of church where God was honored. It was a factory where the basic necessities of life were made. It was a place where wholesome recreation and simple pleasures were enjoyed.
A concerned national leader said, “The home is the citadel of American life. If the home is lost, all is lost.” Thoughtful people the world over agree that if society’s health in the world is to be maintained, the home must be preserved.
When will we learn that houses are not homes, money is not security, gadgets cannot bring happiness and there are no substitutes in our home life for faith, hope and love?
If the foundations of our homes are to be repaired, there are certain God-ordained principles that must be restored. The Bible teaches that God performed the first marriage in the Garden of Eden. Before the church, before the government, before the school, the home was founded. It is the basic unit of society.
Love Is Essential
The first essential for a happy Christian home is that love must be practiced. Homes that are built on animal attraction and lust—or on anything other than love—are destined to crumble and fall.
Love is the cohesive force that holds the family together. The Bible says of one of the earliest families, “Then Isaac … took Rebekah and she became his wife, and he loved her” (Genesis 24:67). The Bible says, “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies” (Ephesians 5:28). The Bible again says, “Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them” (Colossians 3:19).
Love imposes a tremendous responsibility on all members of a family, but it is a responsibility accompanied by glorious rewards.
“Love,” says the Bible, “just as Christ … loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25). How did Christ love the church? He loved it despite its faults, its mistakes and its weaknesses.
Marriage too often ends in disillusionment, because during the courtship each puts his best foot forward; but after the honeymoon the true personality comes to light, virtues are minimized and defects are magnified. If the marriage is based on physical attractiveness only, “love” dissolves away.
However, true love does not fail. It loves even as Christ loved the church, despite personality defects, physical blemishes and mental quirks. Love is deep, abiding and eternal. It loves its mate, not for what he or she seems to be, but for what the mate really is—his own, her beloved, his chosen—even as Christ loved the church.
Nothing can bring a sense of security into the home as true love can. When there is not love, when harsh words are spoken, when quarrels rage, when discord reigns, the child trembles with fear.
Discord in the home says to the child, “There’s something wrong here. Home should not be like this.” So let love flow through your house like a fragrant vapor, saturating the home with deep affection and understanding.
Teach your children
The second essential of a happy home is that there be order and discipline. The home can be a sanctuary of peace or it can be a bedlam of confusion. Isaiah the prophet realized this when he went to Hezekiah the king and said, “Set your house in order” (Isaiah 38:1).
Slipshod homes are bound to produce slipshod character, for the basic lessons of life are learned at home.
The word discipline means “to teach.” The job of teaching has been too long left to the schoolteacher and the scoutmaster.
As a parent, your job is to teach your children by precept and example to be good members of the household, good citizens of the community, good members of the church and followers of Jesus Christ. It takes time, patience, resourcefulness and skill to set your house in order, but God has said that it is an essential we cannot shun.
God said, “You shall teach [my words] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:7).
In other words, the Bible says that we are to teach our children all day long by precept and example.
If a child is to mature, he or she must learn to observe rules. Whether we like it or not, life is filled with rules and laws. If children are to survive, they must know the rules of safety. If they are to be healthy, they must know the rules of health. If they are to get along with people, they must learn the rules of etiquette and courtesy. If they are to drive a car, they must learn the rules of the road. If he or she becomes an athlete, they must learn to observe the rules of the game. You do your children a great injustice when you do not discipline them and when you fail to teach them to discipline themselves.
Of course, in disciplinary action, whatever sort it may be, you must always let the child know that you love him or her, that you are interested in their welfare and long for their full development.
By discipline, I certainly do not mean constant scolding. I do not mean continuous nagging, lecturing or brutal spanking. Our disciplinary action should be firm, sane, fair, consistent and, above all, it should be given in a spirit of loving helpfulness. When children see that we have their best interest at heart, their response will be favorable.
Another thing, as a parent you ought to praise your children for the good things they do. Admiration and approval are very important elements in good discipline, and if we fail to recognize them, our children may get discouraged and say, “What’s the use of being good? Daddy or Mommy never notice it.”
Be an Example
Third, it is essential that you be an example. Someone has said that the highest compliment one can be paid is the compliment of imitation. If your children love you, they are bound to copy you.
The little boy looks for a noble, manly image to imitate. The little girl is her mother in miniature. We scold our children when they fuss or quarrel, but where did they learn to fuss? Are we always polite and considerate of others? Unfortunately, they don’t learn much by the lecture method; rather, they learn by observing and imitating Mother and Father.
We tell them that they should be unselfish, but do they see unselfishness demonstrated in our lives? We tell them that they should be honest, but our words fall flat unless we practice absolute honesty before them.
We tell them that God answers prayer, but do they ever see us on our knees? We tell them that the Bible is the Word of God, but do they ever see us reading it, pouring over it, and sharing its precious truths with them?
Children will invariably talk, eat, walk, think, respond and act like their parents. Give them a target to shoot at. Give them a goal to work toward. Give them a pattern which they can see clearly, and you give them something that gold and silver cannot buy. John Wesley once said, “I learned more about Christianity from my mother than from all the theologians of England.”
Does Christ live in your home?
That is the question we must answer for ourselves if our homes are to be the bulwark of the nation. Is Christ real to you as a parent? Are you imparting implicit faith to your children? Faith in Christ is the most important of all principles in the building of a well-ordered home.
Is Christ the center of your home? Do you have daily Bible reading and prayer in your home? Is grace said at the table? Do you go with your children to Sunday school and church? I ask you today: Is Christ the head of your home?
He can be the head of your home, but first He will have to live in your heart. I am asking you to renounce your sins, your failures and mistakes of the past, and to come to the cross of Christ where He died for your sins. Offer yourself to Him and He will receive you. “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37).
I do not see how your home can be truly and deeply happy unless Christ is the center of your home. If you are having difficulties and irritations and problems in your home, bring them to Christ. There is not a problem that Christ cannot settle, if you will come by faith and give your life and your heart to Him. And you can do it right now.
Renounce your sins; confess them to God. Receive Jesus Christ by faith into your heart, and He will come in and transform you and make you a new person. You will be born again.
Then you can be the right kind of person in your home, and your home can be truly and deeply happy.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.