Family — the First School of Christian Living comment (0)
May 8, 2014
By Bob Terry
Where does one first develop a personal sense of value? Where does one first learn about acceptance and rejection? Where does one first learn the joy of giving or the importance of work?
Where does one learn perseverance in the face of disappointment? Where does one first experience what it is like to be forgiven or to be reconciled to another? Where does one first learn that God is love?
If you answered “the family,” then you share the belief that the family is supposed to be the first school of Christian living.
Obviously the family is important. God created humankind to live as families. When one becomes a Christian, one is adopted into the “family of God.” In fact, the Church is referred to as “the family of God.” From a theological point of view, family relationships are important to God and to God’s people.
From a secular point of view the family is equally important. The family is the foundational unit of society. It is often said if families are strong, then communities will be strong. If communities are strong, then nations will be strong. If nations are strong, then our world will be strong.
The importance of families is one reason Southern Baptists will focus attention on the Christian Home during the week of May 11–17. It is time to remember that the family is the first school of Christian living.
Family is not limited to just husband-wife or parent-child relationships. Family is a broad term that encompasses natural bonds of flesh and blood. It includes grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Family is increasingly multigenerational, especially as people are living longer.
But the natural bonds are only beginning points that enable human beings to turn families into communities of grace. Families can be characterized by growing relationships that help members mature as human beings and as Christians.
Transforming the family into a grace community is the gift of love — God’s love lived out by all who know Him as Lord and Savior. The apostle Paul’s famous essay on love (1 Cor. 13) was not written as marriage counseling to soon-to-be brides and grooms. When Paul wrote, “The greatest of these is love” he was writing to a divided “family of God” in Corinth that had forsaken its role as a grace community.
Love is supposed to be the cement that holds the family of God together against all the strains and pressures. Love is supposed to be the stimulant that causes people to mature in relationships. Love is supposed to be the motivator that prompts one to service in behalf of the little ones, the sick and the aged of the family.
Self-sacrifice is not a natural human emotion. But love for the family enables one to set aside personal goals and ambitions because of the importance of others. Mutual self-giving is not scriptural guidance just for husbands and wives. It applies to and is required of all members of a family striving to be a grace community.
Despite best efforts, times of misunderstandings arise in families. Who does not know of tensions, even conflicts, that have left deep wounds in family members or even the family as a whole? A Christian family should be characterized by openness, understanding and patience. These are consistent with what the apostle Paul describes as “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22ff.
Instead one occasionally finds selfishness, discord and conflict. These are akin to what the apostle describes as displays of the sinful nature (Gal. 5:19ff).
Praise God that just as He forgives our sin and reconciles us to Himself, families can know the joy of forgiveness and reconciliation. Wounds do not have to be fatal, and families do not have to be fractured. Unity and wholeness can be restored with confession and forgiveness. What an important lesson to learn in the first school of Christian living.
From earliest times the Bible places responsibility for transmitting the faith from generation to generation on the family. Studies continue to affirm the importance of family influence. One study found that 7 out of 8 respondents who said they were raised in a Christian home still claimed to be Christians. Another study reported in Christianity Today indicated that 4 out of 10 grandchildren are in the same faith tradition as their grandparents and the influence of grandparents is growing as more and more children are around their grandparents.
That report also found that parents continue to have more influence on their children in relationship to shaping faith and values than any other influencer despite the many changes in culture and society.
Influence of parents and grandparents is not based on what they say as much as on what they do, researchers found. It is called modeling. Parents and grandparents who provide consistent modeling of the values of a grace community generally tended to develop children and other family members who emulated those values.
One researcher said it plainly when he shared, “Again and again we saw that fervent faith cannot compensate for a distant, inflexible (parent). Being a role model is irrelevant if the child doesn’t feel the parent’s example is worth following.”
Transforming flesh and blood relationships into a grace community involves such qualities as availability, involvement, nurturing, consistency, personal warmth and concern as well as a commitment to God and to teach His Word. Turning a family into a grace community is a full-time calling. It is not something for the nominally concerned. It also is a God-given responsibility because God made the family the first school of Christian living.