Greg Popcak asks if you have ever thought of your family life as a liturgy?…
The domestic church is a witness to Christian love
What’s the point of being Christian? The obvious answer is “to follow Christ.” But why did he come in the first place? Why do we need to follow him?
Some people would answer, “to be protected from problems,” but that’s foolish. Our faith doesn’t prevent us from suffering. It shows us how to respond to suffering in a way that glorifies God, works for the good of the people around us and helps us become our best selves.
Others might say, “to be a good person,” but you can be a good person without following Christ. Lots of atheists do good deeds.
The real point of being Christian is recognizing that only by following Christ can we learn to love the way God wants us to love each other and in a manner that works for the ultimate good of everyone involved. Jesus tells us, “love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples” (Jn 13:34-35). Jesus calls this his “new commandment” because his life illustrates a very different vision of love than the world offers. We cannot call ourselves disciples of Christ unless we consciously reject everything the world tells us about love and learn, instead, to live the love that comes from the Father’s heart.
Everyone wants to be thought of as a loving person. We all feel love in our hearts for people. But it’s hard to know how to express that love in ways that are actually … loving. How often do we see people genuinely trying to be loving, only to end up hurting themselves or others in the process? The world’s vision of love is often well-intentioned, but that doesn’t make it any less destructive. Christian disciples are called to show how Christ’s love has the power to save us from the trap of destructive “loving.”
For instance; the world tells us that love is just a feeling, and that as long as you are being true to your feelings, you are being loving — no matter how many lives are ruined in the process. The Christian vision of love says that, regardless of our feelings, we are not loving unless the things we do help us and the people we love become our best selves in Christ.
The world’s vision of love says that the best way to love women is to offer them the right to kill their children so they can pursue their dreams. The Christian vision of love says that women deserve the support they need to pursue their dreams while still celebrating the gift of life.
The world says that “love is love” and if a relationship makes me feel good, it is good. The Christian vision of love says that relationships are only good to the degree that they promote the dignity, life, health and growth of everyone involved.
The world says that love is meant to make this life easier. The Christian vision says that true love must bless us in this life and the next, and it can only do that through an ongoing commitment to “renunciation, purification and healing” (Deus Caritas Est, No. 5).
Sadly, many people who are Christian — even sometimes our pastors and leaders — seem to take their cue for what it means to be a loving person from the world rather than from Christ. They appear to believe that showing up on Sunday or saying the right prayers exempts us from the primary task of discipleship, which is consistently choosing to live God’s vision of love over the world’s vision — especially when it’s hard. They forget Jesus’ words, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Mt 7:21).
This year, I have used this column to outline a model of family spirituality called the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life. By living out this liturgy, messy families like yours and mine become godly families. We learn to give up the worldly, selfish and sinful ways in which we’re tempted to treat each other and, instead, celebrate a love that comes from God’s heart.
That’s why the Church calls families “schools of love.” Our families are meant to be the primary places where people can learn to live Christ’s vision of love and bear witness to the difference living this vision can make. It has never been more important for Christian households to take up this call.
In this time of conflicted visions, the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life enables your family to boldly proclaim, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” through your witness of Christian love.
Dr. Greg Popcak is the Executive Director of the Peyton Institute for Domestic Church Life (PeytonFamilyInstitute.org).