By Rev SEIK PITOI
MASK wearing is part of our daily dressing. In these days of the ‘new normal’, it has become second nature to check for your mask before you leave the house.
Masks of another kind are also a familiar sight at certain parties. Known as the “Masquerade ball”, this is an event where the participants come dressed in strange costumes and wearing masks so you cannot tell who it is. These events are fun to watch or take part in.
But there is another side to mask wearing that is a bit more serious. It happens every Sunday or Saturday in church!
The Greek word ‘hypokrites’ comes to mind. Vocabulary.com says it means ‘stage actor or pretender’. The word took on an extended meaning to refer to “any person who was wearing a figurative mask and pretending to be someone or something they were not.”
That simply means preaching one thing and living the exact opposite way. This ‘masquerading’ works in public life or in church. You cannot tell by the sweet words of the personality how genuine they are until you find them in another time and space. And one place where mask wearing will not work is the home! God unmasks us in our own homes.
Being a Christian in church is easy. Everyone expects you to act a certain way, and many times we can pretend to do so and get away with it. But in our own home, we are known for who we truly are.
A wife knows how genuine her husband is. She can attest to or deny everything he tells the public because she knows him well. The children too know if their father is the loving and understanding man he portrays himself to be in front of people, or a short tempered violent man who shows no grace to them. We can see that the one place where everything must stack up is in the home. That is where the real you is known! And that is where I believe God wants to begin His work of grace!
Here are some things people have said about Christianity and the home…
- “If it (Christianity) won’t work at home, it won’t work anywhere else”.
- “The Christian church cannot flourish without the Christian home”. (Dr A Douglas).
- “The Christian home is the backbone of the church and the nation…” (Dr A Douglas).
- About 10 per cent of a child’s time is spent under the influence of Sunday School and RI classes in schools; but 90% under the influence of the home (Albert Taylor).
Therefore, the home is important to God. It is in our homes that our children get a first glimpse of this thing called the church. The meaning of faith, God, worship, prayer and fellowship start to become clearer in the home. As such, Moses instructed the parents in his day to make sure that the word of God was real to them first, before they taught it to their children. To instruct our kids to live one way while we do the opposite is hypocrisy. God says through Moses,
“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts (first). 7 (Then), impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates”. (Deut 6: 6-9).
This text teaches that talking about the things of God should take their natural course in the home. Every opportunity is taken to teach the child about God in an informal and non-threatening setting such as the home. It does not take a formal Sunday school class for the child to know God.
He sees faith being lived out every day in the lives of his parents. Hence, the importance of living transparent lives before those that matter the most to us – our children!
This teaching is seen in practice in the life of young Timothy in the New Testament. In this case, the Apostle Paul, Timothy’s ‘spiritual father’, commends his mum and grandmother for the powerful testimony that influenced the young man’s fife. Paul tells him,
5 I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also (2 Tim 1: 5).
Timothy’s grandmother, Lois, was a godly woman. Her house was the training ground for her daughter Eunice to grow in her faith. Her ‘sincere faith’ undergirded Eunice’ own faith in God. Then, when Eunice married and brought up her son, Timothy, that same faith was evident also in him. That was what Apostle Paul was commending. There was no mask-wearing in that family home. Their faith in God was genuine as it was lived out and passed down from one generation to the next!
Just for interest’s sake, one wonders why there is no mention of Timothy’s father. We know he was Greek, and he may have been an unbeliever (Acts 16: 1, 3). Like many homes today, sadly, it is the mother who stands in the place of the father, bringing up the children in the ways of God. The father is absent. This should not be as the scriptures say the father is the head of his family under God (Eph 5: 23ff).
Moreover, training in righteousness is the role specifically given to fathers (Eph 6: 4). The mother is just a ‘help-meet’ (Gen 2: 18), one who complements and supports the father in his God-given ministry. Together, they raise their kids in the ways of God! But this fails when the father is missing.
In the ministry of the Lord Jesus, we see that He did much of his teaching and preaching in homes. For instance,
- The paralytic received healing in a home (Mark 2:1ff).
- Jesus taught about worship in Martha’s home (Luke 10:38-42)
- Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law in his (Peter’s) home (Matt 8:14-15)
The home is the place where God’s power and love can be demonstrated. It is the place to witness about God’s salvation. Indeed, when Christianity works in the home, unbelieving relatives and friends will be drawn to the light. Thus, the purpose of our homes are for training our children in the things of God, and as evangelistic centers where Christ is made known to all who come!
When our homes fail
Conversely, there are dire consequences when we fail in our homes to honour God. When the head of the home, the father, is absent from his place of worship, problems arise. The story of priest Eli in the Old Testament is a classic example. He was the priest in charge of the worship of God’s people, Israel. Yet his sons did evil before God. “Eli’s sons were wicked men; they had no regard for the LORD” (1 Sam 2:12). Not only was this a terrible testimony of a family set apart to serve God, but the Lord’s judgement was to befall them as well. “At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. 13 For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them.” (1 Sam 3: 12-13).
Eli knew his sons sinned, yet he failed to correct them. When the Philistines attacked Israel, both Hophni and Phineas, the sons of Eli, died in battle and the Ark of God was captured (1 Sam 4: 11). When the news reached the old man, Eli, he fell down and died (verse 18). What a tragic end to a family who failed to fear God, even as they did the routine ‘churchy things’ without conviction! How often do we see that played out in the homes of many church leaders today!
The above accounts teach us that serving God does not exempt parents from their responsibilities at home! The test of a man’s ministry is not how many sermons he can preach, or what theological qualification he holds.
It does not matter if he can make people weep and fall down when he prays for them, or for how he ‘psyches up’ the crowd in a frenzy! But it does matter how he behaves in his own home, or how he treats his wife and kids.
One man I heard about berates other men for their behaviour and calls himself an authority on ministry pertaining to men, yet none of his kids follow him and his wife goes to another church. While church folk are mesmerised by such a smooth talker, I believe God is not impressed. His word lays out His standards!
As we’ve seen, the family unit and home is important to God. And the person given the task to ensure God is honoured therein is the father. As God said of Abraham: “For I have chosen him (Abraham), so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him” (Gen 18: 19).
A blessing is promised when we as men take the masks off and become real in our homes. Then our wives and kids will take God seriously because they see genuineness in our lives. When men change, homes will change too. Then our churches and nation will follow suit!
- Rev Seik Pitoi is a freelance writer.