Every environment you enter into has a culture. Your workplace, a restaurant, a church – even your own home has a culture all its own. The culture of an environment is like the set of unwritten rules that people abide by while in that particular environment. It’s not just about behavior – it’s about how you think. How you feel. And then, of course, how you behave. And it’s a powerful thing.
Here’s the thing, though – culture is going to be created with or without our help. We would be wise, then, to recognize this fact and take an active role in culture formation in those environments in which we can. And we ought to consider carefully not just how we talk about the gospel, but how we take an active role in forming a gospel culture in our homes.
That is to say, can we ingrain the gospel so much in the way that we talk, the way we think, the way we discipline our children, the way we converse around the dinner table, that it’s part of our very fabric of living, and not just an occasional topic of conversation? I hope so. I pray so.
But there are obstacles to creating this kind of culture in our families. These are obstacles that, in my view, run contrary to the nature of free grace, and obstacles we ought to be aware of if we want to actively shape our culture in a gospel-centered way.
1. The pressure of activities.
Boy, I feel this. There are so many opportunities for our kids. Sports, music, art – you name it. They’re all there. And our kids, like most kids, want to do a bunch of them. What’s more, there is a kind of pressure when you talk to other families to be involved in this activity or that one. Maybe it’s even more than pressure, though – maybe there is a little fear on our part as parents that our kids are going to be missing out on something if we say “no” to a certain activity. That inability to say no, no matter what the cost might be, is the rub.
The pressure of these activities is an obstacle to a gospel-centered culture because we can easily, both for ourselves as parents and on behalf of our children, start to measure our worth and value based on our participation in everything. That basis of personal worth in these activities runs contrary to a gospel-infused culture of self-worth based on the love of Jesus alone.
2. The desire to be popular.
I would have thought I had outgrown this by now. After all, I’m not in middle school any more. But the pull is still there, just as the “right crowd” of people is still there. If it’s there for us as parents, surely it’s there for our kids as well. It’s that desire to be well-liked, at near any cost, that runs so contrary to the gospel. And that cost is more than we can bear. We find ourselves overscheduling, refusing to tell the truth, spending money irresponsibly, and all other kinds of things. And why?
To sit at the right proverbial lunch table.
In a gospel-centered culture, we recognize the difference between the praise of men (or of children), and the love and acceptance we only find in Jesus.
3. The pace of the schedule.
If you have multiple kids, then you know the frenetic pace of life that we drift into. We overcommit ourselves and soon find ourselves rushing from this activity to that one, never seeing each other face to face, and even more rarely having an in depth conversation. Time becomes the most precious of commodities, one that we’re always chasing but never getting a true handle on.
The reason the pace of our schedule is an obstacle to a gospel-centered culture in our home is simple – creating a culture like this takes time. Sustained, long period of time. We have to talk, we have to pray, we have to read, we have to cry, we have to laugh – we have to do all these things, and we have to do these things together, centered on Jesus.
When you look at these three things, you begin to see that all three of these things are characteristics of the world in which we are living. That means if we want to establish a different kind of culture in our homes, we are already walking uphill. It’s going to be a fight. But it’s a battle worth fighting.