My social media is awash with memes and anecdotes about life under lockdown. From diets to haircuts, from homeschooling to working from home, there’s plenty to make light of. We are not used to our lives being so centred around the home, or having so much time together as families.
But what if, despite being strange and difficult, being told to ‘Stay Home’ provides an opportunity for Christian families in particular to re-discover something central to the biblical vision?
The fact is the home used to play a far greater role in life. It was the hub for precisely those things we now find it strange to do there – cooking and eating meals, educating children, even work and economic life. The household was the basic building block of civilisation. Things began to change when the industrial revolution made working away from home and family the norm, but other forces have played their part too.
Although it is impossible to turn back the clock, we would do well to consider what we have lost. The move away from the home has also gone hand-in-hand with the breakdown and break-up of the family, with devastating consequences. Also, much that was within the sphere of the family has become the responsibility of the State, weakening communities and compromising our liberty.
Moreover, it’s debatable (and perhaps a moot point) whether this move away from the centrality of home and family is a symptom or a cause of the decline in Christian profession and practice in the post-industrialised west. Certainly, without an orientation towards the home, it is hard to make sense of the biblical model of marriage – a productive partnership based on male-female sexual complementarity, the purpose of which in large part is to build a godly household, itself a centre for godly culture, in which (God permitting) children and others would be nurtured as disciples.
Today, for all our lip service to the importance of (vaguely-defined) ’relationships’, we look for true life and our sense of self elsewhere. Hence we delay marriage and its responsibilities, because we need the time to discover ourselves through travel, or study, or career. Deprived of the scriptural vision of the household, even Christian marriage has morphed into a sort of advanced dating, which is why we delay having children and resent the impact they have on our marriages.
In the Scriptures, the household as a building block of civilisation has importance in God’s renewal of human civilisation in the church, the household of God. Without this vision, it is far more difficult to understand the ‘roles’ given to men and women within marriage, and the responsibilities given to parents in Christian nurture and discipleship.
Which brings me back to the sense in which lockdown and the strictures of social distancing could be an opportunity. As we do ‘crisis-schooling’, could we begin to re-discover forgotten aspects of the responsibility God has given parents to bring their children up under the discipline and instruction of the Lord, relating all of life to his word? Could having to eat at home make us re-discover the benefits of elevating and honouring the family meal table, benefits that either working late, or the ease of pacifying children in front of a screen, has made us neglect?
Of course we all want the lockdown to be over. But in recent weeks some of us will have found ourselves admitting that we are, to our own surprise, really enjoying having more time with our children and more time at home. Some of that is unsustainable, undoubtedly, but what have we learned that we could carry into life the other side of lockdown? What aspects of your work, or social life, or your children’s education, could you continue to pursue with a greater orientation towards home and family? What are you learning about creating a godly home and culture, that once lockdown is over you can implement even wider, turning your home into a hub for hospitality and friendship that builds up the household of God?