When we decode the society, the basic element we can see are the individuals who are part of the basic unit called family. Lawrence Wilson, a famous family consultant, points out that peace in the family reflects in the peace of the society. Healthy families pave ways for a healthy society. When families are strong, society is strong. Here lies the importance of Christian families as the domestic Church in the locale; especially in the modern nuclear family model.
Matthew 18:20, For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. This word of Jesus which points towards modern nuclear family setup is a great foundation for the Domestic Churches or the concept of family as the Church. Other bigger Churches state in their documents that, “the family is, so to speak, the domestic church. In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children; they should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each of them, fostering with special care vocation to a sacred state.”
God expects the husband and the wife coming together with their child or children to seek God, to worship God, to become the Church. Thus people who are ‘called out, to be effective in the society as ‘His prophets’ in the society, to establish divine social justice, to proclaim the freedom from bondage, called out to become preachers of the good news. In Luke 4:18-20 we can see the Nazareth Manifesto, as generally titled by the biblical scholars, states that, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Three things can be noted here, i) the presence of the Holy Spirit, ii) proclamation of freedom and Lord’s favour and iii) practice of setting people free. When we read John 20:21 we can see the commissioning or the command to the disciple who became the first members of the Church “Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” So when we think of domestic church, parents should “be the first preachers of the faith to their children ” as an obedience to our Lord and master.
We should not forget that the family is placed by God at the service of building up the kingdom of God in our local societies by participating in the life and mission of the church. Church leaders like Apostle Paul in the past have pointed out beautifully how faith is transmitted through families and the role of parents in transmitting the faith to the posterities (2 Tim. 1:5).
Pope Francis beautifully points out that “in the family, faith accompanies every age of life”. Beginning with childhood, children learn to trust in the love of their parents. This is why it is so important that within their families parents encourage shared expressions of faith which can help children gradually to mature in their own faith. Young people in particular, who are going through a complex period in their lives, ought to feel the constant closeness and support of their families and the Church in their journey of faith.”
Theologians like John Singarayar, observes that “The family is called a domestic church on the basis of four aspects of Church, i.e., the Church as people of God, as a community of Christ’s followers, as a worshipping community and as a servant people in the kingdom of God.” From this we can understand the characteristics of a family as belongingness, obedience, devotion and servanthood. Based on the above understanding, a family is stronger when grounded in this selfless love. A man and a woman can promise each other mutual love in a gesture which engages their entire lives and mirrors many features of faith. This brings peace and prosperity to the family which translates into the society in which they live.
These qualities have to be imbibed in every Christian family so that the Kingdom of God can be experienced in the basic unit of the family and it will be poured out through the members of the family to the society. ‘Thus the family become the primary field of evangelization.’ What is Evangelization basically? It is a set of activities through which we make known God’s saving action through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit as we can see in the Nazareth Manifesto. Positive actions in the family reflect positive vibes in the society.
In conclusion we can say that Church starts at the home, which becomes as effective as a domestic church. This empowers as well as caters to the growth of the Church at large, because the basic unity of the society, the ‘Family,’ becomes an effective evangelizing agent through which love, care and salvation flows to the world outside meaningfully.