BUILDING A HEALTHY HOME
BY PAUL GOULET
Since the fall of Adam and Eve, God’s plan for the family has been challenged on every front by godless philosophies until the very concept of “family” is no longer recognizable. External forces plague our nation’s children with violence, secular humanism, New Age teaching in public schools … while internal forces add to the destruction. In his book, The Power of Parents’ Words, Norman Wright describes several problems that threaten the family from within:
Verbal and Emotional Abuse. I’ve heard parents-Christian as well as non-Christian-call their children degrading names such as “stupid,” “pig,” “devil,” and “idiot.” James 3:6-12 speaks about the destruction that thoughtless and unkind words can cause. Many parents wouldn’t consider themselves abusive because they don’t inflict physical pain on their children, but verbal and emotional abuse can be just as harmful. If we withhold love, express conditional love, berate or neglect, our children will suffer just as surely as if they were beaten.
Perfectionism. We all set goals and standards we want our children to strive for, but when those goals and standards are unrealistic, we deprive our children of the benefit of achievement. If they never quite measure up in our eyes, they’ll either experience ongoing failure or they’ll give up.
Rigidity. Rigidity refers to how firmly a parent insists that his way be adopted. It leaves no room for individualism or creative thinking. It stifles healthy growth and sets the stage for rebellion.
Repression. Our children should be able to safely express their thoughts, opinions, and feelings with us, but honest communication is hindered when the above conditions exist in the home. If children are belittled or criticized for their ideas, they’ll become hesitant to express them. If they are unable to measure up, they’ll quit trying. If they are denied the freedom to think for themselves, they’ll be easily led astray.
Lot and his family are an example of a dysfunctional family. In many ways, they lived in a society much like our own. It was plagued by the same moral confusion that we experience today. How did Lot deal with the challenge of raising a healthy family in an unhealthy environment? Was he successful? If not, why not?
Lot was a righteous man: “. . . he [God] rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)” (2 Peter 2:7,8). Lot was also hospitable. He invited two strangers into his home, cooked them a meal, and gave them lodging for a night. (See Genesis 19:1-3.) But Lot made a poor choice when he moved to Sodom. To begin with, he pitched his tent outside Sodom, but he eventually moved into the city and became a prominent citizen. (See Genesis 13:12; 19:1.) As a result, he lost his wife and raised daughters who embraced a worldly view of morality (see Genesis 19:26,31-38).
How did Lot wind up in such a wicked environment? Why would he expose his family-and particularly his daughters-to such sinfulness? The answers aren’t clear, but the account of Lot reinforces the need to establish boundaries between us and the world. It also offers three important lessons:
Do not compromise your morals and values. It’s vital for the spiritual well-being of our children that we don’t compromise our beliefs. We must be morally and ethically upright because our children follow our example. Lot compromised his beliefs and it cost him a great deal.
Live and communicate a life-changing faith. Ephesians 6:4 says: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Lot’s family did not experience a life-changing faith. While Lot’s family members were accountable for their decision to resist God’s standards, their father’s poor example undoubtedly contributed to it.
Obey God’s Word. We should not allow our actions to contradict our words. When we say we are Christians but do not follow God’s commands, we send the message that obedience isn’t important. When many of Jesus’ followers turned from Him, He asked the twelve if they would also leave. Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Do we live as if we believe God’s Word brings eternal life? If we don’t, our children won’t.
Noah also dwelt in a vile and wicked society; so wicked that God decided to destroy mankind. Only Noah and his family were found to be righteous, and consequently their lives were spared. While Lot’s family mocked him when he warned them of impending doom, Noah’s family believed and helped build the ark. Noah refused to compromise, even when it meant standing alone. He was undoubtedly mocked and ridiculed but was nevertheless “blameless among the people of his time . . .” (Genesis 6:9). His righteous life made a difference in his family, and his relationship with God was passed down from generation to generation. Is our relationship with God one that our children should emulate? If not, we would do well to heed the lessons taught by these two men of the Bible.
A study in contrast between Lot and Noah provides seven points to help build a healthy home in a sick world:
Lead the way. Don’t wait for someone else to be the spiritual leader where your family is concerned; that should be your responsibility-and your privilege. Noah did all that God commanded, while Lot delayed and tried to negotiate with the angels God sent to deliver him from impending doom. What would have happened if Noah had been like Lot? What if he had said the following:
God, do we really need such a big boat? And gopher wood, of all things. Why not plywood? It’s easier to get and not nearly so expensive. And God, I was thinking … couldn’t we have a sun roof? And another thing … about all those animals … is that really necessary?
Fortunately for all of us, that’s not how it was. God said, “Build it.” Noah said, “Okay.” God said, “Get in.” Noah did just that. Are we as obedient to God, or are we more like Lot? That’s a very important question when we look at the fate of our families.
Be willing to sacrifice. Imagine devoting more than one hundred years to build a boat. Who paid for it? Where did the wood come from? Did Noah have to cut and prepare it himself? It’s obvious that building the ark meant sacrifice for Noah, his wife, and his sons. They sacrificed their time, money, and reputations, but the rewards were worth it all. Lot was called upon to sacrifice as well. He was to leave his home and everything he owned in order to save his life. He obeyed, but a lack of obedience in his life preceding this monumental decision cost him dearly.
Stand firm in your faith. Noah was undoubtedly tempted to quit at least once. After all, he was surrounded by scoffers; it had never rained; and the whole idea of mass destruction … well, that just wasn’t like God. He surely must have thought about how silly he would look with a boat in his back yard if it didn’t rain. And what about his future? If he didn’t get to work on something productive, he would never be able to retire. Thoughts like these must have occurred to him, but he chose to go against the tide for the sake of obedience. Lot’s problem was that he was unwilling to stand alone. He wanted the fellowship of his neighbors, regardless of how vile they were, so he compromised. To live for Jesus in a corrupt world, we have to go against the tide. But we must also consider the cost of going with the flow.
Let your light shine. Pastoring a church in Las Vegas allows me to witness some of the most extraordinary light shows imaginable. The lights are remarkable but deceiving, for they don’t reflect the addiction, lust, greed, and misery in the lives of those who are drawn to them. I’ve known Christian families that are much the same way. On the surface all looks nice, but inside they’re falling apart. We need to allow God to cleanse us of our secret sins; to heal the hurts we hide; to conform us into His image so our lives reflect the perfect love of God. Only then will those around us be drawn to the Father of lights. (See James 1:17.)
Dedicate time to your children. Time is the currency of the 1990s; a precious commodity. If we’re not careful, the pressing will demand it all and leave none for the important. All too quickly our children are grown-and we’ve missed it. Whatever it takes, we must make time to work, play, and be with our families. When the angels came to Sodom, they found Lot in the city gateway with his friends. When the flood came, Noah was with his family.
Set family goals. A common cause can mold a family into a focused team. It gives each member a reason to sacrifice and work hard. Whether it be a project around the house or a family vacation, work together to accomplish goals.
Pray for the love of Christ. Ask that His love would flow through each member of your family. Scripture gives an example of such a prayer: “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you” (1 Thessalonians 3:12). When Christians walk in the flesh, their homes are no different than the homes of unbelievers. Unless Jesus lives within us, we are incapable of expressing the love the world needs to see in us. Ask God to make you a more loving parent. Ask that the fruit of the Spirit be evident in your life to everyone around you.
We can demonstrate the love of Christ in our homes in many ways: by mutual respect for every member of the family regardless of age; by physical (non-sexual) and verbal affection; by honest, open communication or “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
FOLLOW NOAH’S EXAMPLE
We cannot build a healthy home by wishful thinking or resorting to prayer as a “last-ditch effort” when we’re falling apart at the scams. It requires work, dedicated prayer, faithful service to God and, above all, desire. We have to set the example for our family; we have to separate ourselves from the world’s way of thinking and its value system. This isn’t accomplished by becoming a family of hermits, but by living in obedience to God’s laws regardless of what those around us are doing. We’re to be in the world, not of the world. Noah is proof that it can be done. If we follow his example, we’ll build a healthy home in an unhealthy world.
The Reverend Paul Goulet is senior pastor of West Valley Assembly in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a provocative speaker and author of the Reconcilers series, a course that develops healthy leadership. As a pastor, counselor, and health care professional, the Reverend Goulet has had vast experience in helping individuals deal with a myriad of spiritual, psychological, and social problems.
In the past ten years, Pastor Goulet has helped start several counseling centers in churches and served as director of Capital Counseling Ministries in Sacramento, California.
He is a graduate of Ashland Theological Seminary and an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God.
Paul and his wife Denise have three children: Isabelle, Christine, and Samuel.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS TAKEN FROM “PARENTING”; EDITED BY HAL DONALDSON, OUTWARD BOOKS, INC., 1993, PAGES 25-32. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.