As I’ve been reading through Acts, something has been bugging me. It’s a phenomenon I refer to as “The Whole Household Thing.” Very sophisticated label, isn’t it?
Three specific instances come to mind right off the bat. There might be more, but the three that are glaringly obvious are found in Acts 11:14, Acts 16:15, and Acts 16:31.
In each instance, the person in question was saved, along with their whole household. The most intriguing one for me is that last one where Paul tells the jailer in the story – that he will be saved, as will his whole household.
How in the world does Paul know? At this point, he’s never been to the jailer’s household. He’s never met the rest of the jailer’s family. He hasn’t been able to interact with them to determine that they are ripe for the gospel. What ability does he have to predict how the jailer’s family will respond to the message he presents to them?
The whole dilemma leads me to wonder about cultural and family expectations. In our western culture, everything is phenomenally individualistic. Even within the boundaries of our families, we are very much individuals. Each person makes his own choices. Parents hope their children will follow a good path, but ultimately they feel that they must simply defer to their child’s preferences.
Not all cultures follow that pattern. In some cultures, both past and present, a parent’s choice is expected to be accepted by the whole family. What would happen in our culture if a man made a decision and automatically expected his wife and children to fall in line with it? How often would we see wholehearted trust and obedience on the part of the family? How often would we see a family place full confidence in a patriarch, trusting that his decision truly was best for them all?
I wonder if that’s what happened in these situations – a complete trust in what the head of the household chose. A confidence that his or her decision was for everyone’s best.
As a result, salvation – truly the best gift of all – came to each household. Not one or two members, but the whole household.
I still struggle with the concept because each of us is individually accountable to the Lord when it comes to our salvation. But, I’ve also struggled with the number of families I see where one member – frequently the matriarch – of the family is incredibly passionate about service and ministry while many of the family members are just nominal Christians, if not unchurched altogether. I can’t help but think that we must be missing something.
I would dearly and truly love to see it – a whole household saved because of their trust in the decision of one. Not just a household deciding to start attending church together, but a household radically changed because of the love of Christ.