The Role of the Family

The family is a mosaic. As each new stone is added, its color, texture and shape continue to define or even redefine the portrait of a family. In time, all add to the final composition, and a beautiful image emerges. Such is the scripture's portrayal of a family "many members, yet but one body" as the Apostle Paul notes in 1 Corinthians. He continues, "but God hath tempered the body together...that the members should have the same care one for another." Deity has formed the family unit as the model of His relationship to His creation and of His Son's relationship to the household of Saints. It is with this care that we now undertake the detailing of key principles related to the role of the family and that of the extended family, derived from the scriptural model for marriage.

Providing

The Edenic sentence articulated the head of household's responsibility to provide leadership and sustenance for the family. (Gen 3:16-19) Paul adds clarity to this perspective when he says, "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." (1 Tim 5:8) Implicit in the gospel message of Matthew is the premise that the family is to be a place for both spiritual and natural food and clothing. "Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" (Matt 7:9-11) The father of the family is to nurture his own, following the example of Yahweh in strength, not faltering, with faith, hope and charity. This responsibility of the husband is then augmented by the deeds of the "good wife." "She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens." (Prov 31:15) The head of household establishes the leadership of service. "But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." (Josh 24:15)

Serving

Christ captured the character of serving when he said, "If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you." (John 13:14-15) The head of the family is the husband, yet he is a servant to all and an example for all to follow that they might be servants one to another. "For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another." (Gal 5:13) The family crucible is where our patterns of life are formed, and we are admonished to be "doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." (James 1:22) and to "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (Gal 6:2) In the family we learn to "Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling" (Psa 2:11) and to "Serve the LORD with gladness: come before His presence with singing." (Psa100: 2) The extended family - the household at large - is to operate as one body, and we are to entreat the elders "as a father; and the younger men as brethren." (1 Tim 5:1) Serving involves letting go of worldly aspirations and our need to be right, seeking first the kingdom of God, and following the counsel of Paul. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God." (Rom 12:1-2)

Teaching

The family is to be a safe haven from the evils of the world, a nurturing and tempering environment where responsibility and accountability are learned from the Bible. From the giving of the law in Sinai to the Wisdom of Solomon, to the instructions of Paul, the message is clear; we are to teach our children the things that are able to make them wise unto salvation. Regarding His oracles, God instructed all, "thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up." (Deut. 6:7) Internal family focus is to be complemented by additionally teaching those within the household of the ecclesia plus those without, who would seek a covenant relationship with Christ. Parents and family members establish an environment, which is conducive to learning, by observing the following: "In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned." (Titus 2:7-8) Teaching must be by example and instruction

Love

Love has many dimensions. First and greatest is to, "...love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." (Mat 22:37) Within the family formed by the union of a man and his bride, their expressed love for each other grows to spread its wonderful comfort, devotion and assurances to each new family member. In Hebrews we learn that going "on unto perfection" requires that we extend our love to the greater ecclesial family. (See Heb 6:1 cf. 13:1-6) Doing so reflects the second greatest command, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." (Mat 22:39) This broad application embodies the characteristics of love, which scripture so beautifully sets forth in 1st Corinthians. "Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends." (1 Cor. 13:4-8) As head of the greater household, Christ said, "This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you." (John 15:12) Love is the agent that draws the family together, and then forms the glue that binds the extended family as one forever.

Godly seed

God blessed Adam and Eve and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth." (Gen 1:28) God's vision was that the earth "be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea." (Hab 2:14) God established that in marriage the two became as one, "That he might seek a godly seed." (Mal 2:15) Godly seed are the heritage of the family and of the Deity. "Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward." (Psa 127:3) The promises to Abraham capture the fullness of godly seed filling the earth-- the kingdom restored under the leadership of our Messiah, that singular seed. (Gal 3:16) The children who issue from the family are to be provided for by the parents, taught the ways of the Lord and the ways of his servants, and to "love one another" as he has loved us. (John 13:34)

Scott Cram, Denver, CO