Building Blocks of Community II: A Holy Household, I

The second building block of community is the Christian household. The household is a micro-community where we learn love and service, and in order for a Christian community to exist and flourish, it needs to be composed of many households that are particular instances of what the community as a whole is called to be.

In 1 Cor. 16:15-16, Paul holds up the example of a godly household, a household known for two things: believing in Christ, and serving the community of faith. These are the two pillars for any godly household, but before we can understand exactly what these things entail for a household, we need to know what a household is. A “household” in the Bible describes a social unit made up of people (centered around a familial head), united by a place (usually a house), and connected by their callings (husband, wife, provider, servant, etc.). Household = people + place + callings. In the Bible, think of the household of the Philippian jailer, or the household of Lydia the seller of purple, or the household of Simon the tanner.

When we try to get our minds around the idea of a household, we need to be aware that there are counterfeit households running around trying to pass themselves off as genuine households. We see especially two opposite errors: on the one side, people overemphasize the nuclear family, making an idol out of birth or marriage. This means that someone who isn’t a natural part of such a family (such as a divorcee, a unmarried person, etc.) feels ostracized or excluded, and subtle messages are sent that they don’t fully belong. This group says that family is all-important, and that there should only be one kind of household. This is a Trinity fail – they only have room for oneness, and no room for threeness.

On the other hand, our culture is celebrating all sorts of social arrangements with no regard to marriage or birth, making an idol out of choice. You can call anything a household – two men, two women, or more, etc. Family means nothing to this counterfeit version of the household. This is the opposite Trinity fail – they celebrate diversity, but have no room for a unifying principle. A household that can be anything can’t really be defined, and becomes a meaningless notion.

In distinction from these counterfeits, a Christian household finds its unifying center in familiar relations, without absolutizing the family. Ordinarily, God’s design is for a household to be built around a family unit of husband, wife, and children, but that is not the only kind household that belongs to the community. Grace, not biology, makes for a holy household.

And so in a healthy Christian church, there will be a great unity-in-diversity in the makeup of our households. This means, among other things, that a righteously divorced man or woman can still lead a godly household, and can still meaningfully participate in the life of the Christian community. It should be completely unremarkable for a single woman to attach herself to a Christian family to assist in the care of the children, or for a young single man pursuing education or career training to land in one of our homes for a time and so to become part of a “household.” In fact this is one of the great blessings of a Christian home: God takes care of lonely individuals by placing them in families, and thus turning a family into a household.

A holy household, therefore, is a family-based social unit that lives in a common place, pursuing a related set of God-given callings. Without these households, any community will be deformed and misshapen, and will not ultimately succeed in manifesting the life of God on earth. But wherever the gospel captures households, they will band together for worship, serving one another in love, and sharing in God’s mission of spreading His glory to the ends of the earth.

Posted on Wednesday, August 14, 2013 by CJ Bowen