The Image Of A Household Of Faith. By Dr John Armstrong 7-18-16

The Image Of A Household Of Faith.    By Dr John Armstrong 7-18-16

picture of family of faith

The following is a great discussion about God’s vision for every Christian household. There were some personal info in the first paragraph that was ommitted. It was emailed to me by Act 3 Network

John Armstrong Act 3- 7-18-16

….This image of a household is one that should powerfully mark the church of Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 3:15; 1 Peter 4:17). The metaphor of the church that most of us think of first is “the body of Christ.” Yet if we read on, we then think of the New Testament church as a “family” (cf. Galatians 1:2; 1 Peter 2:17). But just as our little Armstrong family of four became a living and functioning household, as we learned to share our lives together, so each church is to become a household of the living God.

This image has been called an ecclesia domestica, or domestic (household) church. Many theologians in the twentieth century picked up the metaphor and developed it profoundly. One of the images that flows out of this theology is that of a family becoming a “school of following Christ.” This provides a rich vision of what the church is becoming. But the word household helps me even more than the word family. We can easily think of the church as a family in ways that do not connect our lives to one another. To live in a more complex and diverse household is to not only live together but it is to receive one another as our part in the mission we share as one.

It dawned on me, maybe thirty years ago, that Jesus’ teaching on the “family” does not fit with most of the modern American notions of family. This is especially true of those ideas of family I was given by my evangelical church background. Jesus’ teaching virtually exploded the category of family in the ancient world (cf. Matthew 12:50; 19:29; Mark 10:29; Luke 14:26). He said, in his kingdom, familial relations would be subordinated to the spiritual bonds of discipleship. Americans do not generally understand this at all. I saw this reality with my own eyes the first time I spent a month in India when I saw that if you follow Christ this often means you must leave your family and enter into a new household. This household is formed by bonds of love in Christ. The gospel creates this new family, a large and more complex household of faith and love.

I thus prefer the image of the household to that of the family. The central reason is that a household may be multigenerational. Yes, it may be constituted by marriage and kinship but, unlike a family, a household is not necessarily defined by race, gender or bloodlines. Christian households may include all kinds of people not found in traditional families. I believe the time in which we live is demonstrating this truth more than ever. Let me explain.

In a household we eat, sleep, bathe, get dressed, relax, and converse with others. We learn basic social conventions and the practice of hospitality. We learn that there are household expectations and whether we have been in the household for a long time, or we’ve just entered it, we are expected to graciously follow these expectations in love for each other. But in this household we also learn about committed and loving relationships, both in marriage and many other contexts. The household metaphor is bigger, bolder and more all-encompassing than the family.

To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be shaped by his teaching about the reign of God. It means accepting one another in love. This household is open to all. It can have particular “household customs” but these are never designed to be barriers to keep people out. They are established so that the household can become inclusive and outward.

I submit to you that this mark of the church is so important that unless we discover it we may never understand how to practice the gospel we see in a text like Romans 14:1-12. In verse one Paul says: “Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions.” Unless our churches become genuinely welcoming of the weakest and most broken people then they will never become true households of faith. Without this mark the church will begin to look very ugly and repugnant, especially in the modern world.

John Armstrong Act 3- 7-18-16

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