Thursday, 5 September 2013

God's recipe for families

It was a special fall, in a time that I expected and hoped for so much. I sat writing with my newborn daughter on a blanket at my feet. My toddler and preschooler were outside with their older sister, enjoying the brisk fall weather and each other. My husband was watching and playing with them, and I was relaxing in the comfort of my parents' home. My mother had supper cooking in the slow cooker, and the smells of warm stew were teasing my appetite. My father had a fire on in their fireplace, cozying up their already inviting home. 

This, to me, is family.

Comfort, warmth, food and friendship are what most of us think about at certain times of year. When we gather together with loved ones, we celebrate family, create memories and build relationships.

As believers, family is even more special, for many reasons. We have a larger family than just related by blood or marriage but is also created by faith. Family is the form of the Church, the foundation of society and the fundamental representation of the Triune God. It is by family that we learn to relate to each other, to God and to the world.

God has instructions for family as He does for every other area of life. Family is incredibly important to God, and should be also vital to the Christian. In fact, the main qualification for any type of leadership in the Church is that one's family has been and continues to be well managed and an example of faithfulness, respect, love, and kindness. Paul states that if we cannot lead our own families well, we have no business trying to lead the church.

A godly family begins with a godly, solid marriage. In the beginning, God created human beings to be together in families, and joined the first couple in marriage Himself. Their relationship was without barriers, originally, and they had complete intimacy, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. They had complete trust in each other and in God. God designed us to long for that connection to another person: to be completely known... and accepted! This intimate, connected relationship is where our strengths shine and our weaknesses are protected. United in marriage, our efforts are multiplied, and our impact magnified.

A godly marriage starts with God. When both partners have a personal relationship with God, like a triangle, they grow closer together as they grow closer to God. Godly marriages are strengthened by our willingness to be honest, open and vulnerable. Paradoxically, we build a strong marriage by being willing to reveal weakness. Marriage is then fulfilled in our unity and teamwork. We are fully "one flesh" when our first response is about "we" not "me".

It is in family that we best exemplify the Image of God. Genesis 1:27 says that man was created in His image, male and female. Together we fully show who God is. It begins with marriage, and is completed with the first command God gave human beings: to be fruitful and multiply. God looks generationally. His promises to Abraham and his descendants were constantly to “you and your children.” Children are compared to “gifts”, “rewards”, and “crowns”. It is the security of a godly marriage, founded on God’s principles, that children best grow and thrive, and the Godly family achieves God’s purpose.

In order to have a godly family, godly parenting is key. Scripture says that the essential ingredients of godly parenting are consistent teaching, compassionate discipline and communal responsibility. Deuteronomy 6:5 instructs parents to teach their children the laws of the Lord, at every single moment of life, and not just with words, but with their example as well. Consistency is integral to effective parenting. If your words don’t match your actions, children are confused and often rebel. Proverbs lists the value of discipline in correcting children and preventing future pain for both child and parents, and Ephesians 6:6 expands on that by admonishing parents to temper their discipline with understanding, lest they provoke rebellion in their children. Psalms declares that God disciplines us like a father disciplines the son he delights in, showing us that it takes love and compassion to discipline appropriately. The examples given us in Joshua, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings of how the sins of one person affected the whole community show how God views the community’s responsibility of the raising of children. Leviticus gave instructions to parents on how to handle rebellious children, with the community’s help. In Matthew 18, Jesus also told us how to handle those who offend us, including our children, by appealing to the larger community of which we are a part, such as our local church. Godly parenting involves all these elements to raise godly children.

The effects of godly marriage and godly children are evidenced in the impact on the world. In Psalms 134, God compares godly children to arrows in a trained warrior’s quiver, going far beyond him to hit the target and accomplish a purpose. God can use our children to accomplish His purposes. In Psalm 139, God declared that each of us was uniquely created, and in Jeremiah 29, God promised a future and a hope for us. In families, we are trained, nurtured and prepared for that future. In Isaiah, God told us that He puts the lonely in families. Families are God’s way of showing His love to the world.

The holidays are soon upon us again.  This year, for my family, it is exciting, but bittersweet, with our new addition, a wedding, and a marital breakdown. My daughters are excitedly anticipating being able to share their favourite traditions with their new baby sister, and our extended family is greatly looking forward to meeting her. My brother is getting married, and my second daughter is thrilled to be their flower girl. Yet, I struggle with the pain and sorrow surrounding my own marriage. 

We do have more to celebrate this year. We also have more to mourn. Every year, however, we can celebrate God’s love and provision for us, in giving us a family, whatever that may look like. God puts us in families, whether that is the family of our birth, or the family of our second birth, the church. The community of family is so important to God. God started His story with a family, and finishes it with a family.

The Godly family is love in action. Thank God for His family, and for our families.

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