Date: October 23, 1930?
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. – Joshua 24:15
NOT long ago a large newspaper in London offered a prize for the best definition of the word home. More than five thousand replies were received, offering as many different explanations of this momentous four-letter word, which brings up before our mind’s eye some of the noblest conceptions and some of the most treasured memories of which human thought is capable.
More than five thousand different interpretations of this short word home! Yet tonight, as we broadcast this radio message, dedicated to the youth of this North American Continent, a program that is financed and supported by that splendid young people’s organization, the Walther League, we should find indeed, if we could inquire, that the young men and young women of America are likewise divided on the question as to what constitutes a happy home. Take young people as you meet them in all parts of the land and ask them what their conception of an ideal home is, and you will receive many and varied answers. Some—and I fear a large number—will say, “My picture of an ideal home is one that does not feel the pinch of poverty and privation, a home in which there is plenty of money, which contains all the conveniences and attractions and comforts so essential to a happy and complete home.” Others will tell you, “Education and culture produce the ideal home. It is only when people are enlightened that they can attain to happiness in their family relations.” Still others will answer your question by saying, “Affection is the greatest contributory factor to any happy family. When husband and wife love each other, when children regard their parents, and parents regard their children, with affection and devotion, then you have everything that is necessary for happiness in the home.” And there will be those who say, “In addition to all this there must be religion, a creed of some kind. When a home has religion, it has the one power which can make it ideally happy.”
Yet these opinions, which you can read repeatedly in “uplift” magazines and find described in the apparently endless number of books that are being published on the question of the home, fall far short of giving the one and only correct description of a truly ideal home. Wealth is not essential to family felicity. You can go down to the hovels that rise in your city slums, and in some of those poverty-pinched families you will find more real happiness than in many of the aristocratic mansions in the exclusive residential sections, where perhaps a dissolute father, an unfaithful wife, or an ungrateful child has used the money that so many people today regard as essential to blast away every vestige of peace and love. Neither can education and culture alone produce a happy and helpful home-life; for a college degree is no charm against family troubles, as repeated instances in the divorce courts show, and the childless families of the intelligentsia in our country are not only working misery in such homes, but are weakening the physical, mental, and spiritual power of our nation. And love? It is true that there can be no real and full happiness without love; but affection alone cannot guarantee the continuance and growth of happiness in the home. Many a son and many a daughter has been ruined by too much love or by the wrong sort of affection. There must be something else combined with love to purify and strengthen it, something else indeed, if love is to have the right impulse and the right power.
SERVICE TO GOD IN CHRISTIAN FAITH MAKES A HAPPY HOME.
That something else is faith in Christ, the service of the Lord, to which Joshua pledges himself and his household in our text. Mark you, I insist upon Christian faith, because mere religion, any kind of creed, will never satisfy. Over in Africa there is plenty of religion in the kraals of the natives, but it is a religion that tells them to insure the happiness of their homes by murdering the little, helpless babes that are born as twins or by carrying their aged parents and grandparents out to the jungles and leaving them there as prey for man-eating lions. In our country likewise there are many homes in which there is a superabundance of some kind of religion, but the false kind, which permits a father to stand over the prostrate form of his child and refuse to call a physician because it is against his religion; or that vicious brand of religion parading under the name of Modernism,—although it is as old as the hills and the idolatry and immoral worship that was practised on the hills,—which preaches the weakening of the marriage relations, the illegitimate control of offspring, or other satanic delusions, which, if carried through, would spell complete disaster for our country.
If, then, our own home individually is to radiate happiness, if it is to be a haven of spiritual refuge for those who are sheltered within its walls, it must be dedicated to the service of the Lord, it must be pervaded with faith in Christ and with His renewing Spirit. I submit this tonight as a very definite principle, that the first and foremost requirement for the service of the Lord in the attainment of home happiness is the sincere conviction, firmly accepted by every member of the household (which, I pray God, may be in the hearts of all who are listening in tonight), that Jesus Christ is their personal Savior; that, recognizing fully and without any self-justifying reservations the sin and the selfishness, the greed and the envy, the baser impulses and desires that express themselves only too frequently in their lives, they come with contrite, yet trusting hearts to the never-failing, overflowing source of their soul’s redemption, the Cross, and thus consecrate themselves to the Lord’s service. I do not say that there cannot be a certain sort of happiness in the home-life of those who have not answered the charge of sin by pointing to the grace of Christ; but I do say that, just as the joy of life and the happiness of death is known to none but the Christian, so in our family relations there can be no hope of permanent, abiding, satisfying, spiritual happiness without the all-pervading faith in Jesus and without faithful ser vice to the Lord.
Now, this is not merely my personal opinion; it is the declaration of Him whose Word is the unalterable, unerring truth and who tells us, “Without Me ye can do nothing.” If you want to realize the absolute certainty of this statement, examine the evidence that crowds in upon us in this day and hour. Why is it that last year more than 200,000 decrees of divorce were issued in our own country? Why is it that our nation is being inundated by a flood-wave of juvenile crime and that our enlarged prisons are being filled with youthful criminals? Why is it that the police radios of our country daily broadcast the names of hundreds of missing young men and young women? Why is it that there is such a rude disregard of the requirements of purity and chastity on the part of young people that even newspaper writers are beginning to throw up their hands in horror? Is all this not finally to be traced to the ugly power of sin and to the fact that many homes, calloused and stolidly indifferent because of cold commercialism and endless pleasure-seeking, have crowded Him out who says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock”; that they have not emblazoned this truth in their innermost hearts, “Christ is the Head of this house, the unseen Guest at every meal, the silent Listener to every conversation”?
SERVICE TO GOD IN CHRISTIAN LIFE MAKES A HAPPY HOME.
But because the home should be the basic unit in our modern life, because the Church will never, humanly speaking, be able to rise above the home level, our American homes, blessed above all others, as they certainly are, should hearken to the words of the Savior and the words of His Scripture, which tell us how we must serve God in the daily, practical issues of our home-life. And while there is much that I could say to parents, especially to those who do not show the proper interest and concern as to where their sons and daughters are and what they are doing; while the Seattle Juvenile Court is undoubtedly right in saying that eighty-five per cent. of the young people brought before that court would have been spared this humiliation and disgrace “if the fathers and mothers of these children had safeguarded them with a reasonable amount of affectionate companionship,”—tonight I am speaking especially to young people, and it is to them particularly that I present the constructive suggestions which the Scriptures offer for the service of the Lord and the attainment of happiness in their present as well as in their future homes.
First of all, our young people are told to “obey their parents in all things”; and they are assured that “this is well-pleasing unto the Lord.” Any young man or young woman who knows that until the thirtieth year of His perfect manhood the divine Christ was subject to His earthly parents should also know and believe that through faith in this Jesus there is given to them the power to put into practise that love and devotion to which God has attached such importance that the commandment, “Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother” is the only injunction of the ten bearing a promise, “That it may be well with thee and thou mayest live long on the earth.”
Then, the Bible tells us that children are to love their parents, to “requite” them, that is, to repay their kindness; and again we are told, “That is good and acceptable before God.” It may be up to date for a young man to absent himself from his home until the early hours of the morning, enjoying the intimacies of automobile rides, late dinners, and amusements of a doubtful nature; but it is hard to see how this can be really enjoyable when a care-worn mother, who rarely has the pleasure of enjoying her son’s company, stays at home, forlorn, lonely, and anxious. It may be attractive for a young lady to blossom forth periodically in the latest style of dress; but it is an attraction of a very questionable kind when her father has been obliged to wear his clothing shiny and threadbare to enable her to keep pace with fashion’s demands. When young women spend most of their salary for personal adornment and for useless, but expensive luxuries and never think of the joy that a little gift of love and gratitude would bring to their mother’s heart; or when young men lavish no insignificant part of their salary upon the young lady of their choice for candy, flowers, and entertainment, without ever stopping to think that no father or mother ever grows too old to appreciate gifts of filial love with double gratitude; when young people show their attractive qualities outside of their homes and reserve their less amiable traits for the family circle,—they are guilty not only of a sad lack of consideration, but also of a plain disregard of the divine will.
No, every young man or young woman who has made the pilgrimage out to Calvary, has stood beneath the cross, and witnessed the deep devotion to His prostrate mother which the crucified Redeemer evinced when He cried out, “Son, behold thy mother,” “Woman, behold thy son”; all those in whose ears this thunder of the wrath of God has echoed, “The eye that mocketh at his father and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it,” all such do not need special days and outward celebrations and formalities to remind them of the love and devotion which, through the spirit and power of Jesus, they must extend to their parents.
And to both, Christian parents and Christian children, the Savior looks for a home-life that will be a constant expression of faith in His holy name and that will show the deeper meaning of Joshua’s promise, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Remember there can be no completely Christian home where the family altar has not been established and where the members of a household do not unite in prayer to God, beseeching Him for His comfort and courage and thanking Him for His immeasurable love and bounty. There is something missing in that home where the Book which claims to be, and which we believe to be, a “lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path” remains closed and sealed, where the Bible, with the solution which it offers for all the problems and perplexities of any household, is not read in the quiet devotions of the family circle. “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.” The humble cottage that is pervaded with the spirit of the Lord Jesus means more in the sight of the just and holy God than the palatial mansions that have accommodations for everything that spells comfort for the body, but are too crowded for Him who provides for the eternal welfare of immortal souls.
Yes, a home where the story of the Cross finds its abode and the message that “there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” than the name of Jesus Christ, is heard and believed by the whole family, that home is indeed blessed and is endowed with the power that makes “Home, Sweet Home” more than a mere song—a blessed reality. In such a home, marriage is something high and holy, not a mere temporary arrangement, which may be discarded as soon as it proves inconvenient. In such a home both husband and wife realize the divine wisdom and love that prompted the allwise Creator to tell all the generations of men, “Be fruitful and multiply”; children are regarded as the gift of God’s grace, as the objects of special care and affection, and there is no unwillingness to assume the responsibilities and duties of parenthood. In homes that are thus blessed the eternal Redeemer Himself is enthroned, and it is His Spirit of peace and helpfulness and love that can quiet the tempests that arise and adjust the misunderstandings that may crop out as long as human nature still asserts itself.
Give us young people who in the spirit of Jesus Christ will make Joshua’s resolution theirs and dedicate themselves to their Father’s service, and the dawn of a new and happier day will break upon our country, a day in which the home ties will be strengthened, the home influence increased, and the home blessings intensified, especially through the establishment of the family altar, through the uplifting power of family prayer and Scripture-reading. Even more, such young men and young women will be prepared to lay the right foundation when, following the command of God and the impulse of their nature, they enter married life and, taking Jesus with them as the Third in their covenant, build their own homes, where peace and love and comradeship help to make this life of ours as nearly worth living as it ever can be.
Their home may not attract the attention of men; it may not be noted for its luxurious appointments and facilities; but it will have another glory: it will have Christ, the blessed Redeemer Himself—Christ as the Guide and Counselor of husband and wife, Christ as the Guardian and Protector of all who dwell within that home; Christ to share in joy and happiness; Christ to soothe in sorrow and distress; Christ to receive the little children that are born to bless that home; Christ to wipe away the tears that come when a dear one is carried into the heavenly home; Christ first, Christ last, Christ forever uppermost! May this Savior be the crown and glory of all our homes! Amen.
Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.