Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. Psalm 127:1a
Every Christian parent will readily affirm that their children are being raised in a “Christian home.” Probe a little deeper, though, and you’ll often find that what they really mean is their children are being raised in a “Christian culture.” Let me state what should be obvious, but doesn’t always seem to be—Christian activities and interests do not make a home Christian.
Let me be more specific—a Christian home is never defined by what the children are doing…it is defined by what the parents are doing. Your child could read the Bible every day, listen only to Christian music, watch only Christian videos, read every missionary biography in the library, know a zillion memory verses, have only Christian friends, and never miss Sunday School or Bible Club, and yet still not live in a Christian home.
Your children cannot do enough Christian things, no matter how good those things may be, to make your home a Christian home. Only you, their parents, can make your home a Christian home.
SO WHAT, THEN, MAKES A HOME CHRISTIAN OR RATHER HOW TO BUILD A CHRISTIAN HOME?
A Christian home, in uncomplicated terms, is one in which God is alive and present in the lives of the parents. It is Christian not just in name, but in reality—Christ is present through His Spirit in the lives of His followers who live there. It is worth noting that the common Greek word in the New Testament for family is oikos, which means “house.” Family is the people who live within the house.
A physical house built without a foundation is destined to fall. Only a firm foundation creates a real and lasting home. In the same way, Christ is the foundation of a Christian home. Just because Christians live inside a house does not mean that Christ is that home’s foundation. Jesus ended his sermon on the mount with the parable of “a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-27). His house stood against the wind and flood, but the house built on sand fell. As a parent, you must choose to build your own house, your family, on the rock of Christ and His word if you want to build a Christian home that will stand for God, both literally and figuratively.
But how do you do that? Paul admonished parents concerning children that we are to “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” We are to ektrepho our children “in the Lord.” That Greek term literally means to “feed from,” or to nurture. We are to feed our children from the life of God that is already in our own lives, to nurture their hearts in the life of the Lord who already lives in our own hearts.
Paul explains what that nurture looks like—it is helping your children understand the ways (training) and words (instruction) of life with Christ. Paul’s admonition to parents is not just a formula for what to do, but rather a description of the spiritual, relational, and life-giving priorities that should characterize our parenting. That is what will lay a strong foundation for a Christian home.
If we try to create a Christian home only by immersing our children in American Christian culture, we will “labor in vain.” We even run the risk of building on a sandy foundation that could leave our house, our family, in danger in a storm of life. When we let the life of God flow through us and into our children through our intentional, purposeful, life-giving relationship with them, that is how “the Lord builds the house.”
When the people of Israel were about to enter the Promised Land, Moses charged them as parents, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7a). In essence, Moses was saying, “You cannot impress upon your children’s hearts truth that is not first impressed upon your own heart.”
And that is how you build a Christian home. It all starts with your heart.