Thousands of years ago, in the most beautiful Garden the world has ever known, lived a man and a woman. Formed in the likeness of their Creator, they lived solely to reveal Him to His creation and to each other and thus to glorify Him every moment of the day. Humbly they accepted the position of a creature with the Creator -- that of complete submission and yieldedness to His will. Because they always submitted their wills to His, because they lived for Him and not for themselves, they were also completely submitted to each other. Thus in that first home in that beautiful garden, there was absolute harmony, peace, love and oneness not only with God, but with each other.
Then one day, the harmony was shattered, for the serpent stole into that God-centred home, and with him, sin. And now, because they had lost their peace and fellowship with God, they lost it with each other. No longer did they live for God -- they each lived for themselves. They were each their own gods now, and because they no longer lived for God, they no longer lived for each other. Instead of peace, harmony, love and oneness -- there was now discord and hate -- in other words, SIN!
Revival begins in the Home.
It was into the home that sin first came. It is in the home that we sin more than perhaps anywhere else, and it is to the home that revival first needs to come. Revival is desperately needed in the church -- in the country -- in the world, but a revived church with unrevived homes would be sheer hypocrisy. It is the hardest place, the most costly, but the most necessary place to begin.
But before we go on, let us remind ourselves again of what revival really is. It simply means new life, in hearts where the spiritual life has ebbed -- but not a new life of self-effort or self-initiated activity. It is not man's life, but God's life, the life of Jesus filling us and flowing through us. That Life is manifested in fellowship and oneness with those with whom we live -- nothing between us and God, and nothing between us and others. The home is the place before all others where this should be experienced.
But how different is the experience of so many of us professing Christians in our homes -- little irritations, frayed tempers, selfishness and resentments; and even where there is nothing very definitely wrong between us, just not that complete oneness and fellowship that ought to characterise Christians living together. All the things that come between us and others, come between us and God and spoil our fellowship with Him, so that our hearts are not overflowing with the Divine Life.
What is wrong with our Homes?
Now what at bottom is wrong with our homes? When we talk about homes, we mean the relationship which exists between a husband and wife, a parent and child, a brother and sister, or between any others who, through various circumstances are compelled to live together.
The first thing that is wrong with so many families is that they are not really open with one another. We live so largely behind drawn blinds. The others do not know us for what we really are, and we do not intend that they should. Even those living in the most intimate relationships with us do not know what goes on inside -- our difficulties, battles, failures, nor what the Lord Jesus has to cleanse us from so frequently. This lack of transparency and openness is ever the result of sin. The first effect of the first sin was to make Adam and Eve hide from God behind the trees of the Garden. They who had been so transparent with God and with one another were then hiding from God, because of sin; and if they hid from God you can be quite sure that they soon began to hide from one another. There were reactions and thoughts in Adam's heart that Eve was never allowed to know and there were like things hidden in Eve's heart too. And so it has been ever since. Having something to hide from God, we hide it, too, from one another. Behind that wall of reserve, which acts like a mask, we cover our real selves. Sometimes we hide in the most extraordinary way behind an assumed jocular manner. We are afraid to be serious because we do not want others to get too close and see us as we really are, and so we keep up a game of bluff. We are not real with one another, and no one can have fellowship with an unreal person, and so oneness and close fellowship are impossible in the home. This is what the Scripture calls |walking in darkness| -- for the darkness is anything which hides.
The Failure to Love.
The second thing that is wrong with our homes is our failure really to love one another. |Well,| says somebody, |that could never be said of our home, for no one could love one another more than my husband and I love each other!| But wait a minute! It depends on what you mean by love. Love is not just a sentimental feeling, nor even strong passion. The famous passage in 1 Corinthians 13 tells us what real love is, and if we test ourselves by it, we may find that after all we are hardly loving one another at all, and our behaviour is all in the opposite direction -- and the opposite of love is hate! Let us look at some of the things that that passage tells us about love.
|Love is long suffering (patient) and is kind.|
|Love vaunteth not itself (does not boast) is not puffed up (is not conceited).|
|Love does not behave itself unseemly (is not rude) seeketh not her own (is not selfish), is not easily provoked (does not get irritated), thinketh no evil (does not entertain unkind thoughts of another).|
How do we stand up to those tests in our homes? So often we act in the very opposite way.
We are often impatient with one another and even unkind in the way we answer back or react.
How much envy, too, there can be in a home. A husband and wife can envy the other their gifts, even their spiritual progress. Parents may be envious of their children, and how often is there not bitter envy between brothers and sisters.
Also |not behaving unseemly,| that is, courtesy, what about that? Courtesy is just love in little things, but it is in the little things that we trip up. We think we can |let up| at home.
How |puffed up,| that is, conceited, we so often are! Conceit comes out in all sorts of ways. We think we know best, we want our way and we nag or boss the other one; and nagging or bossing leads on to the tendency to despise the other one. Our very attitude of superiority sets us up above them. Then, when at the bottom of our hearts we despise someone, we blame them for everything -- and yet we think we love.
Then what about |seeking not our own,| that is, not being selfish? Many times a day we put our wishes and interests before those of the other one.
How |easily provoked| we are! How quick to be irritated by something in the other. How often we allow the unkind thought, the resentful feeling over something the other has done or left undone! Yet we profess there are no failures in love in our homes. These things happen every day and we think nothing of them. They are all of them the opposite of love, and the opposite of love is hate. Impatience is hate, envy is hate, conceit and self-will are hate, and so are selfishness, irritability and resentment! And hate is SIN. |He that saith he is in the light and hateth his brother, is in the darkness even until now.| What tensions, barriers and discord it all causes, and fellowship with both God and the other is made impossible.
The Only Way Out.
Now the question is, do I want new life, revival, in my home? I have got to challenge my heart about this. Am I prepared to continue in this state or am I really hungry for new life, His life, in my home? For not unless I am really hungry will I be willing to take the necessary steps. The first step I must take is to call sin, sin (my sin, not the other person's) and go with it to the Cross, and trust the Lord Jesus there and then to cleanse me from it.
As we bow the neck at the Cross, His self-forgetful love for the others, His longsuffering and forbearance flow into our hearts. The precious Blood cleanses us from the unlove and ill will and the Holy Spirit fills us with the very nature of Jesus.1 Corinthians 13 is nothing less than the nature of Jesus, and it is all gift to us, for His nature is ours, if He is ours. This blessed process can happen every single time the beginnings of sin and unlove creep in, for the cleansing fountain of Blood is available to us all the time.
All this will commit us very definitely to walking the Way of the Cross in our homes. Again and again we will see places where we must yield up our rights, as Jesus yielded up His for us. We shall have to see that the thing in us that reacts so sharply to another's selfishness and pride, is simply our own selfishness and pride, which we are unwilling to sacrifice. We shall have to accept another's ways and doings as God's will for us and meekly bend the neck to all God's providences. That does not mean that we must accept another's selfishness as God's will for them -- far from it -- but only as God's will for us. As far as the other is concerned, God will probably want to use us, if we are broken, to help him see his need. Certainly, if we are a parent we shall often need to correct our child with firmness. But none of this is to be from selfish motives, but only out of love for the other and a longing for their good. Our own convenience and rights must all the time be yielded. Only so will the love of the Lord Jesus be able to fill us and express itself through us.
When we have been broken at Calvary, we must be willing to put things right with the others -- sometimes even with the children. This is, so often, the test of our brokenness. Brokenness is the opposite of hardness. Hardness says, |It's your fault!| Brokenness, however, says, |It's my fault!| What a different atmosphere will begin to prevail in our homes when they hear us say that. Let us remember that at the Cross there is only room for one at a time. We cannot say, |I was wrong, but you were wrong too. You must come as well!| No, you must go alone, saying, |I'm wrong.| God will work in the other more through your brokenness than through anything else you can do or say. We may, however, have to wait -- perhaps a long time. But that should only give us to feel more with God, for, as someone has said, |He too has had to wait a long time since His great attempt to put things right with man nineteen hundred years ago, although there was no wrong on His side.| But God will surely answer our prayer and bring the other to Calvary too. There we shall be one; there the middle wall of partition between us will be broken down; there we shall be able to walk in the light, in true transparency, with Jesus and with one another, loving each other with a pure heart fervently. Sin is almost the only thing we have in common with everyone else, and so at the feet of Jesus where sin is cleansed is the only place where we can be one. Real oneness conjures up for us the picture of two or more sinners together at Calvary.