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The Surprising Purpose for Establishing "House Rules"
A framework for expressing practical love.
As someone who emphasizes grace in my writing and teaching, suggesting the establishment of "house rules" for families might seem contradictory.
However, house rules are more than just setting expectations for behavior and structure in the home.
In this post, we'll explore how house rules can serve as a framework for demonstrating practical love, promoting accountability, and fostering communication.
Demonstrating Practical Love
The purpose of establishing house rules is not primarily to create a standard for punishment. Rather, they serve as a framework for each family member to demonstrate practical love towards one another.
For example, a family could create a contract or covenant, like "The Caston Way," which outlines how family members treat each other, handle conflicts, manage chores, and set curfews.
These rules make boundaries clear and emphasize the importance of demonstrating practical love to others in the family.
To illustrate the concept of practical love, consider some potential practical examples of house rules:
Cleaning one's room demonstrates respect (i.e., practical love) for personal space and the shared living environment.
Not playing music at full blast indoors shows consideration (i.e., practical love) for others.
Going to bed at a reasonable hour not only promotes a healthy lifestyle but shows respect (i.e., practical love) for others' schedules.
Helping clean up the dinner table exhibits teamwork and appreciation (i.e., practical love) for the efforts of those who prepared the meal.
In each case, the underlying principle is the same: "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (1 John 4:11).
Guidance of these house rules not only fosters a loving and respectful environment within our families but also reflects the love we have received from God.
And how did God love us? What was so practical about it?
Jesus suffered the penalty for all the ways we have not followed the house rules of the Kingdom. His loving act was to give himself unto death as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. There is nothing more practical than that.
Now, being the recipient of such love is the motivation, example, and power for how we walk in his ways as a Savior-King who loves his family, even unto death.
Establishing consistently enforced house rules also teaches children that actions have consequences and that everyone is accountable for their behavior.
It should come as no surprise that God has house rules, too. We call it his law. In this sense, house rules are like God’s law, which was given to lead us to Jesus for the mercy our sins require. As Paul says in Galatians 3:24, “So the law became our guardian to lead us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”
The accountability we all need, parents and children alike, is awareness that we possess a sinful nature that will resist the command to love. This will require ongoing repentance and forgiveness, which itself demands we live all of life—especially in the home—in view of the cross.
Establishing house rules also encourages open communication within the family.
When children know what is expected of them, they are more likely to ask questions about the rationale behind certain rules.
Parents can use these conversations to reinforce the idea that every rule is an application of love.
Whether a two-parent home, a single-parent family, or blended household, being mindful of these dynamics will allow house rules to leverage the power of the gospel for each family context.