This week for our series on relationships, we take a deeper look at our relationships with our family members. Family relationships can serve as some of our closest bonds to another person, yet often they can be our most dysfunctional and complicated relationships. Whether you find yourself belting Sister Sledge’s “We are Family” at family reunions, or you find yourself dreading the next family get together, what does living as a follower of Christ within your family context look like? How can we cultivate positive family relationships with family members while growing in our faith? What should you do when a family member doesn’t share your faith? Let’s explore these more in depth in this week’s blog on family relationships.
The Word on Family
God has a heart for the nuclear family. How do we know this? We see many examples of families in the Bible. Even from the beginning, in Genesis 12 for example, God uses a family as a vehicle of blessing to all the families on earth. Abram, his wife, Sarai, and his nephew, Lot, set out from their home in Haran as God asked. “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you,” God says (Genesis 12:3).
God also provides instructions throughout the Bible for how a family should operate. For example, in the book of Ephesians, Paul instructs both husbands and wives to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ”. He specifically instructs wives to “submit to your husbands as to the Lord” and emphasizes that this submission is a response to a husband who loves his wife “just as Christ loved the church.” (Ephesians 5:21-22, 25). So, here we see guidance on the husband-and-wife relationship in a family. Scripture also sheds light on the relationship between parent and child. We know that parents are responsible for raising their children and caring for them: feeding them, clothing them, and helping them figure out who they are as people. Yet parenting, in God’s eyes, is much more than providing the basic human needs. Parents have a responsibility to “train up a child in the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6). What does this actually mean? For me, this means that parents should be models of Christ and teach their children about their faith so that when they are old enough, they can develop their own close relationship with Christ. Similarly, God says for children to “honor your father and mother” and “obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” (Ephesians 6:1-2). As children, and even teenagers, we sometimes fall into the pattern of thinking we know everything, but God reminds us that we don’t! Listening to and respecting our parents is to learn from them.
Planting the Seeds in your Family
All of the guidance in the Bible is perfect, yet we know we are far from perfect in ourselves. Family relationships are hard! As much as we try to teach our children with grace, sometimes we have weak moments when frustration takes over. And even when we want to be kind and learn from our parents, the urge for independence can lead us to rebel. So how do we go about building positive relationships with our family while growing in our faith? For starters, we can’t go wrong with Jesus’ Golden Rule that is shared in the Gospel of Matthew: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) According to Jesus, this timeless truth summarizes the entire teachings of the Old Testament, which is a pretty big book by the way! We’ve probably told our children about the Golden Rule or we remember being told as a child. Yet even though this rule is an age-old adage, it’s one of those truths that leads to flourishing relationships in our families and beyond. Below are some practical steps to take in cultivating positive relationships while growing in our faith:
Follow the Blueprints: God has provided instructions for how the family should flourish and so we would be wise to follow them! We remember that family exists to bring God glory, praise, and honor, and we do that when we live according to His Word. We should love our family members as ourselves; bear their burdens; and care for them in time of need. If we have children, we should teach them the good news of the Gospel and train them up in the faith. We follow the blueprints laid out in Scripture not for our own sake, but because it is in the best interests of our family, and it will bear fruit. As someone who has benefitted from growing up in Christian home, I can witness to how following the blueprints have borne fruit in my life. My family attended church every week and my siblings and I also attended weekly youth group. When I was little, my parents prayed with me every night before bed and read Bible stories with me. This has had a profound impact on my faith journey, and it has shaped who I am today as a Christ follower.
Develop a Rhythm: Rhythms and routines are critical when fostering the growth of faith in our family members, especially our littlest members! Set a time aside each day, whether it’s the morning, evening, or right before bed for family devotions. This can serve as a great opportunity to slow down and hear about each person’s ‘high’ or ‘low’ of their day, while gathering around the Word and being encouraged in their faith. Communicating with family members about details regarding rhythms and routines is also important, whether that’s attending service on Sundays, Bible studies, or family devotions. I recently spoke to a parent about their rhythms and routines, and she explained that everyone in their family understands that church is “just what they do”; it is the norm for their family and how they do life together. Having these kinds of rhythms and routines can also pique the interest of non-believing family members and lead to interesting conversations about life and faith.
Be an Example: I saved the best practical step for last! Be an example and live out your faith. When it comes to faith, the reality is that most things are caught rather than taught. Whether you realize it or not, your family members watch you. Your children watch you. Your spouse watches you. And other family members pay more attention to you than you realize. I’ve talked to parents who make sure they are in a place where their children can see them when they are reading their Bible in the morning. Not so they can be noticed and praised for reading their Bible, but so their children see that reading the Bible is a priority of the family. I can remember seeing my mom reading her Bible on our couch and I can also remember her always listening to Christian talk radio everywhere we went. Specifically, I can remember listening to Charles Stanley on 101.5 Word FM on our way to school every morning. No devotional or curriculum can take the places of an honest witness of faith in your family. Especially when it comes to our non-believing family members! So often, we are obsessed with finding the right time to share with them the Gospel, or we just keep hammering home Bible verses or invites to Church. The key is that we should be Christ to them before we preach Christ to them. This doesn’t mean we claim to be divine or the Savior of the world, but we should love like Christ, care like Christ, and serve like Christ. We don’t condemn, but rather we should take a genuine interest in people’s lives and meet them where they’re at. And what you’ll find is that a relationship becomes the avenue through which you can share the Gospel with a family member. But it comes from a place of honesty and love.
The Wrap Up
Our family relationships are important to God and they can present opportunities for us to grow in our faith as well as share our faith. God’s heart is for each and every family, and His plan is to bring about prosperity in every family unit. May our family relationships serve as vessels of God’s grace, truth, and love, and may our lives be a testament to His goodness as we look to glorify Him in our families and beyond!
If you’re interested in reading or learning more about family relationships, check out these resources on RightNow Media
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