Viewing Family with the Right Perspective

A Family Crisis

The bookshelves and playlists of Christian homes are filled with resources about the Christian family. With all this interest and information around us, are Christian families thriving? Not really. These resources promote some helpful things, but they promote a lot of trendy or harmful advice as well, things that sound nice, but are more popular than biblical.

Furthermore, we are experiencing a serious dilemma in our culture. Parents, for instance, are raising children, but without the benefit of having parents or grandparents that followed biblical principles before them. Imagine finding out that your swimming instructor has never himself been taught to swim. (“I see!” said the blind man, as he picked up his hammer and saw!) That’s what is going on in Christian homes today, only the results are far more serious. We’re raising a generation of young people, but many of us have never had anyone teach us how to do it God’s way apart from a few popular books and a handful of sermons.

Families for God

In all our well-meaning efforts to correct this problem, we need to avoid another problem. We may become so engrossed in correcting our family crisis that we begin to worship the family instead. In doing so, we forget why we have families in the first place.

God gave them to us. They are his idea. So, it is necessary to restore God to his proper role in our families. Before we talk about daddy dates, quality time, biblical discipline, or helping our children choose a career path, we need to be sure that we are properly focused on God.

We can discuss a wide range of family topics, focusing on what the Bible teaches about parents and children. We can also discuss a variety of ideas for how to put into practice what the Bible teaches. But if our goal is merely to fix or strengthen our families, then we are missing the point of why we have families in the first place.

Understanding God’s Purpose

When God created the world, he culminated his work by creating a man and a woman. Before he made them, he stated his purpose for doing so: he wanted them to rule everything else that he had made on his behalf (Gen 1:26). He repeated this purpose immediately after he made them (Gen 1:28). Sandwiched between this repeated purpose, he explained the means through which a husband and wife would do this: they would produce offspring, numerous offspring, and enough to fill the earth (Gen 1:27-28). By doing this they would expand God’s influence and reign over the entire earth.

God did not make the earth and all that is in it to serve and exercise control over families. He made families to serve and exercise control over the world.

So, marrying, bearing children, and training them to extend God’s influence and reign into the world is at the heart of God’s purpose for making people in the first place. You see, a functioning family is central to God’s original purpose for mankind. God did not make the earth and all that is in it to serve and exercise control over families. He made families to serve and exercise control over the world.

Family and Church

Both family and church serve an important purpose in God’s plan for the world. As such, they are not competing institutions. Sadly, this does not always seem to be the case.

  1. Sometimes churches press upon families overwhelming ministry schedules, programs, and influence, giving families very little time or opportunity to make decisions for themselves.
  2. Other times families preoccupy themselves with so many family and extracurricular events that they have no time to involve themselves in church gatherings and ministry opportunities.

Both situations fail to strike a biblical balance.

The Role of Parents (Deut 6:4-7; 2 Tim 3:14-15)

One mistake Christian parents make is relying on the church to provide their children with religious instruction and training. But this expectation can fail in at least two ways.

  1. First, they underestimate the importance of the parents’ personal devotion to God. Parents who rely on the church to shape their children’s faith, but fail to cultivate a personal walk with God of their own, place their children in spiritual jeopardy by counteracting whatever their children learn at church.
  2. Second, they neglect their parental responsibility to teach their children the Bible at home. Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and sermons do not erase the necessity of parents teaching their children the Bible daily.
The Role of the Church (Eph 6:1-4; Col 3:20-21; Tit 2:1-8)

Letters to New Testament churches show us that churches play an important role in the success of Christian families. Not only do churches provide the biblical setting for all members of a church to grow and minister as Christians, but they also should provide biblical teaching about family roles and behavior.

You find both purposes in Ephesians and Colossians, because:

  1. The letters speak to parents and children directly, which means that families were in the audience when the letters were read to the church.
  2. Also, these letters and other provide specific biblical instructions for parents and children to follow.

Ultimately, churches and parents must work closely together, in reliance on God’s Word, to prepare the next generation to serve God. Consider the dual influences that shaped the faith of Timothy in tandem (2 Tim 3:14). The Scripture influenced and transformed his life from an early age onward, as taught and modeled to him through both his family (2 Tim 1:5) and the church (2 Tim 1:13).

Review Questions

  1. What were God’s instructions to Israelite parents and why are they important (Deut 6:4-5)?
  2. God commanded Israelite families to worship at the tabernacle and Temple. Why did he also command the parents to teach their children God’s Word daily (Deut 6:6-7)?
  3. How can your family put into practice what you have learned from this lesson?