I have been writing these hymn commentaries for about seven years, now, and I have tried to present interesting and edifying illustrations, stories about the faith and struggles of the authors, or the importance of the hymns in church history. This hymn does none of that. This is the most difficult hymn commentary I have ever written.
Barbara Hart was born in 1916 and she wrote A CHRISTIAN HOME in 1965. And that’s all there is. I’ve searched dozens of printed and Internet resources. I’ve found no biographical information about the author, no history, no illustrations, and no backstory.
It is published in very few hymnals, and I was inclined to just pass over it, but the subject is too important and has a strong message that is appropriate in our current culture.
The hymn is a prayer that asks God to work in our families. It reminds us that He is the Head of our homes. It challenges us to the same kind of determined commitment that Joshua had when he said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
Most of our songs and hymns build up and strengthen our faith, they bring joy to our souls, they inspire us, they encourage us to good works, they teach us great truths, they comfort us in difficulties, they cause us to be thankful, and they help us in our praise and worship to our Savior.
This hymn didn’t do any of those things for me. In fact, I found it to be uncomfortable and convicting because the lyrics revealed my own disobedience and failures as a son, a brother, a husband, and a father. And it reminded me of a phrase in Psalm 119:6, “Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.”
I looked up the meaning of the word, shame, in a Bible dictionary. Shame is a consequence of sin. Feelings of guilt and shame are subjective acknowledgments of objective spiritual realities. Guilt is judicial in character; shame is relational. It emphasizes sin’s effect on our self-identity. Sinful humans are traumatized, before a holy God, when we are exposed for our failures to live up to God’s laws.
And, if we had the time to read through the entire 176 verses of Psalm 119, we would all be driven to the trauma of guilty shame. So, what is the remedy for this shame? It is in keeping ALL God’s laws.
None of us can do that but praise God that His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, kept every jot and tittle of the law perfectly and God the Father has imputed His Son’s righteousness to us.
So, as I think about the prayer of this hymn, I am thankful that even though I have failed in many of my goals and good intentions; and I break His commandments every day, I can rejoice in knowing that God is merciful, gracious, and forgiving.
Because this hymn is rarely published in most hymn books, I have posted the lyrics below. It is sung to the tune of “Be Still, My Soul.”
O give us homes built firm upon the Saviour, Where Christ is Head, and Counsellor and Guide;
Where ev’ry child is taught His love and favor, And gives his heart to Christ, the crucified:
How sweet to know that tho’ his footsteps waver, His faithful Lord is walking by his side!
O give us homes with godly fathers, mothers, Who always place their hope and trust in Him;
Whose tender patience turmoil never bothers, Whose calm and courage trouble cannot dim;
A home where each finds joy in serving others, And love still shines, tho’ days be dark and grim.
O give us homes where Christ is Lord and Master, The Bible read, the precious hymns still sung;
Where prayer comes first in peace or in disaster, And praise is natural speech to ev’ry tongue;
Where mountains move before a faith that’s vaster, And Christ sufficient is for old and young.
O Lord, our God, our homes are Thine forever! We trust to Thee their problems, toil, and care;
Their bonds of love no enemy can sever, If Thou art always Lord and Master there:
Be Thou the center of our least endeavor: Be Thou our Guest, our hearts and homes to share.
Ralph M. Petersen and his wife, Kathy, are the owners of the OLDE TOWNE EMPORIUM at 212 E. Main St. in Rogersville, Tennessee. Your comments are welcome. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (951) 321 9235.