mother with son

Turn Your Homes into Heaven

This is a guest post from Steven Leckvold, a Th.M. student at Western Seminary.

St. John Chrysostom preached many sermons throughout his ministry and covered a vast array of passages and topics. When I first decided to spend time gleaning from some of them, his treatment of marriage and family life caught my attention. Newly married and perhaps and (Lord willing) a prospective father some day, I wondered what would this powerful voice from the past have to say about raising children.

As I dove into his words, I wasn’t disappointed. Among the many exhortations to raise a family in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, three struck me and resonated deeply in my heart.

1. Express Concern for Spiritual Things

Our concern for spiritual things will unite the family. John told his listeners, “We are so concerned with our children’s schooling; if only we were equally zealous in bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord!” It seems that in the case of many families, not much has changed. Children aren’t often sent to the greatest schools in the region to learn rhetoric among the philosophers and master rhetoricians, but many Christian parents are far more concerned with their children’s school grades or athletic achievements than their spiritual development and their conformity to the image of Christ. Algebra and history win the place of humility and love, and their discipleship becomes the job of the youth pastor. Having been one, I’ve seen it firsthand, and it isn’t pretty.

2. Give Children a Pattern to Imitate

Second, give your children “a pattern to imitate.” What is this pattern? John tells the parents to be an example of one who studies the Scriptures. From the earliest days of their children’s lives, they should see and experience their parents’ love for the Word. He says:

It is necessary for everyone to know scriptural teachings, and this is especially true of children. Even at their age they are exposed to all sorts of folly and bad examples from popular entertainment. Our children need remedies for all these things! [1]

No doubt, in John’s world there were many opportunities to get an eyeful or earful of choice immoralities. He spoke these words because the parents within his congregation needed to hear it. But the children of John’s congregants weren’t lurking in the deepest, darkest corners of the Internet. They didn’t play violent video games. They didn’t look to primetime television for role models or for justification of their own choices as lived out on sitcoms. They couldn’t snatch their parents’ iPhones to start streaming Youtube videos galore. If John’s congregants needed to hear these words so desperately, how much more do Christian parents today? There are many ways that parents can do this. In a different sermon from Genesis, John gives parents an incredibly practical way to demonstrate commitment to the Scriptures, and hence to Christ.

3. Turn Your Home into Heaven

Third, he exhorts parents to “turn [their] houses into heaven.” At the end of a homily on Genesis, John decides to exhort his listeners to do something extraordinary. He encourages them to talk about the sermon when they get home. Now that probably doesn’t sound extraordinary; rather, it probably sounds quite ordinary. People like to jab about how long the pastor talked, where he fumbled, words over which he stumbled, jokes he told, stories that made them laugh, and so on. John’s admonition is this: Think about the words of the sermon, the message of the Word, wherever you go. Think about it at the marketplace. Dwell on it. Teach it to people who weren’t there to hear it. He says, “nothing is sweeter than attention to the divine sayings.” The proclamation of the Word is to hold their attention as they meditate upon what they heard that day. And they are to take it home with them, and bring their family around that Word:

Your sayings are like honey in my throat, better than honey and the honeycomb in my mouth.’ So place this honeycomb on your table at evening so as to fill it completely with spiritual sweetness. Have you noticed how affluent people bring in harpists and flute players after the meal? They turn their house into an auditorium; for your part, turn your house into heaven, doing so not by altering the walls or changing foundations, but by inviting the Lord of heaven to your table.[2]

Those without children can practice this all the same, and while I find myself in this situation, this is an exhortation I intend to put into practice now, rather than later. Right now, my dinner table can be a place where I invite the Lord and turn my home into heaven. My wife and I, rather than grumbling about the problems and stresses of the day, can share with one another what we’ve learned about the Lord as a result of our devotions, the sermon from the prior Sunday, or a whole host of other things. We can pray together before we fall to sleep. We can read the Scriptures together whenever we get the opportunity. We can (gasp!) turn the television off, and I can pause my game of Words with Friends. In doing these things we can prepare for the day that we, God willing, are given a child of our own. But regardless, it will do wonders in our own discipleship and growth as we seek to be more like our King as we grow in our knowledge of him. We can live out the gospel vibrantly each and every day as we walk in step with the Spirit.

Conclusion

Spiritual concerns, a pattern to imitate, and a table set for both physical and spiritual food. What do you think? What are some other ways we can “turn our homes into heaven”? What are some other ways we can shepherd the hearts of our children (and feed ourselves)? How can we guard our children’s eyes and minds in a day where our technology seems to have made the world somehow smaller and larger at the same time?


[1] Chrysostom, “Homily 21 – On Ephesians 6:1-4,” in On Marriage and Family Life, trans. Catherine Roth and David Anderson, 65-72 (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1986), 67.

[2] Chrysostom, “Sermon Eight,” in Eight Sermons on the Book of Genesis, trans. Robert C. Hill, 134-144 (Boston, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2004).

[This post has also been published over at Everyday Theology.]

About Stephen Leckvold
Stephen is a Master of Theology (Th.M.) student, graduate fellow, and course mentor at Western Seminary. He and his wife, Amanda, are members of Hinson Baptist Church in Portland. Prior to his studies at Western, Stephen served as a preacher, teacher, and youth director at an Independent Baptist church in Kirkland, Washington. He also has extensive experience in the architectural coatings industry. In the future, Stephen plans to serve in both pastoral ministry and Christian education. It is his desire to equip believers to understand the gospel and its implications from the entire Bible. For his Th.M. program, he is focusing on biblical theology and the Old Testament. Stephen enjoys music, playing guitar, computer technology, biblical languages, books, and spending as much time with his wife as possible.

2 thoughts on “Turn Your Homes into Heaven

  1. The three admonitions are timely and sure to foster a Christ like family. The labor of parents can seem impossible. I am not married, however, I appreciate the effort my parents make to raise my younger brother and I. In addition to the three suggestions, I would add a time where parents and child have fun. A board game, playing catch, basketball, or whatever the young one(s) may be interested in. This of course is not a replacement for the admonitions to model Christ for children, rather the Christian life is dynamic and joyful in many facets.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Roger! I know what you mean; some of my favorite memories are of my dad and I playing catch in the backyard, and laughing together with family. While I agree it’s not a replacement for admonitions to model Christ, I think that laughter, enjoyment, and fun are all elements of the “shalom” that should be experienced in the Christian home as it consistently lives out the implications of the gospel.

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