The concept of a pleasant aroma is used in Scripture as a description of something pleasing to God, so I want to always be asking myself: Does our home have a lovely fragrance that honors God and is a blessing to our family and to others?
Unfortunately, we’ve all probably all been in a home that has the stench of broken relationships, a home where arguing, unkind teasing, and withholding good from each other are commonplace. Most people who enter this type of home want to turn around and head for the door as quickly as possible, as the air surrounding such discontented people can be stifling. By contrast, when we walk into a home with sweet fellowship, we feel a sense of calm and peace. There is an inviting aroma permeating to the corners. Everyone is getting along, jokes are made and are well-received, and affection is freely given. It’s easy to assume that the families who live in these homes are just lucky: they married “soul-mates” and have easy-going children. But what if this aroma of goodness is something we can, and even should, have in all our Christian homes?
Let’s think of it this way: If your kitchen had a sink always piled high with dirty dishes and you walked into a clean kitchen in someone else’s house, you wouldn’t think to yourself, “These people must not ever eat! If I had a family that didn’t eat, then my kitchen wouldn’t be messy either!” Though we know that’s silly, sometimes it’s easy for us to look at homes where the relationships seem effortless, with everyone happily in fellowship, and think they just must not have the same sin problems we do. “If only I had children and a husband who didn’t have these sins, my life could be full of good fellowship too!”
But just as every family consists of people who eat, every family is full of sinners. Messes are made every day in our families. The families who have clean kitchens, ones that smell of freshly washed linens instead of leftovers, are the families that clean up after themselves. And the families with the cleanest kitchens (so I hear!) clean up immediately — a dirty dish is washed right away and put away. Likewise, the families who stay in good fellowship are the families who clean up after themselves. Just like washing the dishes and putting them away keeps them from piling up, saying we’re sorry immediately keeps the sin messes from growing.
Of course, clean fellowship starts with us as parents. In our family, we implemented a no fussing rule when our kids were little – I thought this sound like a great idea because I didn’t enjoy listening to my children whine. Turns out (predictably) that I was the one who had to apologize a ridiculous number of times as my complaining heart adjusted to the higher standard. As parents, we need to say apologize early and often so that we don’t hinder the fellowship in our homes. Paideia Southeast speaks of helping our children to love what God loves and hate what he hates, and GOD hates sin. So we should hate sin, too – in ourselves AND in our children. If they’re not being sweet -tempered, they should be receiving “parental attention,” whether that is teaching and practicing how to have a good attitude or praying with them or disciplining them.
We shouldn’t make excuses for our own sin or our children’s sin by attributing it to special needs or allergies or diets or lack of sleep or their past negative experiences. God gives us grace to follow His laws, and He will never give our children anything that would keep them from learning the obedience He requires of them. This is not to say that we don’t understand our children’s frames and sympathize with them. But we come alongside them and show them a better way, even if it takes lots of prayer and practice to get there. We each are born with sinful hearts, but are called to surrender to Christ through obedience, regardless of what other capabilities we may or may not have. For the whole family, staying in fellowship is work. It is hard, and it takes discipline. Just like doing the dishes.
If you don’t do the dishes, of course, they don’t just go away. Neither will the bad attitudes. Contrary to popular belief, children don’t outgrow complaining or fit-throwing. The sin just morphs into something more (or less!) socially acceptable. It’s as if you take your dirty dishes and start hiding them around the kitchen in cupboards, under the table, in the refrigerator… your sink might look clean, but your kitchen will still be a mess… and eventually it will stink. The consequences of sin always go somewhere. If a family has an older child who isn’t disciplined, often the younger children will pay the consequences for his tyrannical temper. Or if the baby of the family is allowed to get away with everything then the older siblings will constantly have to clean up after her and deal with broken possessions. If a complaining mom doesn’t repent, she will make everyone in her family miserable. So rather than allowing the ill effects of our sin be paid for by those around us, we need to take our sins to the cross, through our repentance, so they can be dealt with once and for all, by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Sin that’s not dealt with in this way causes resentment to build and will poison fellowship. Resentment is the bad smell that fills your home after you’ve hidden all the dishes. It’s in the air and you know you should get rid of it, but now it’s harder to root out and clean up. By contrast, when everyone in the family is repenting immediately, the fellowship in our homes will be sweet and our families will enjoy spending time together. Another motto our family has adopted sums it up nicely: Repent, rejoice, repeat!