God designed marriage and the family to work. Family life is a picture of the quality of relationship God desires with each of us (2 Corinthians 6:18; Galatians 4:6).
“‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church” Eph.5:31-32.
God created the family to be the place where people would grow to understand God as their loving Father. He desires “godly offspring” – children who will be like Him (Mal.2:15).
The Model of Family Life
“…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us…” John 17:21.
The biblical model of family life is exactly the same as the model of church life (Phil.2:1-8; Col.3:12-16; 1 Pet. 3:8-9). It is based on the depth of love found in God Himself. The selfless unity of the triune God is given as a picture of the quality of relationship that God has planned within family life. The life of the family flows from God the Father (Ephesians 3:14-15).
When Adam sinned, however, God’s plan for marriage was marred. Instead of family life being an expression of selfless love, family life became an expression of self-centeredness.
The Cycle of Selfishness
After their fall, God told Adam and Eve the consequences of their sin. For Eve it would be:
“…your husband…will rule over you” Genesis 3:16.
Through the fall of Adam, mankind brought upon itself a vicious circle. Love was replaced by self-centeredness.
* The husband “rules” his wife in a spirit of tyranny
* The wife responds with a spirit of independence
* The children react with rebellion
This cycle of selfishness feeds on itself. The more the wife reacts with independence and the children with rebellion, the more the husband responds with tyranny. This cycle of self-destruction is part of the curse of sin (read Genesis 3:16-19). The end result of this selfish lifestyle is every kind of family problem and broken relationship (2 Timothy 3:2-5).
The wonderful good news of the Gospel, however, is that this curse upon the family has been broken at the Cross!
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree’” Galatians 3:13 (see also verse 10; Proverbs 3:33).
The Cycle of Love
“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord…Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” Ephesians 5:22,25; 6:1 (read also 5:22-6:4; Col.3:18-21; 1 Peter 3:7).
The foundation of family life is love. This love is expressed in different ways by different members of the family.
* The husband’s expression of love is laying down his life.
* The wife’s expression of love is submitting.
* The children’s expression of love is obeying.
The cycle of selfishness is based upon my demands and my needs. The cycle of love, however, is based upon selfless giving to others in the family. When a family is expressing God’s kind of love, everyone’s needs will be met.
God’s Kind of Love
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” 1 John 3:16.
For family life to work, it needs the life of God Himself flowing into it. Love – God’s kind of love – is the all-important key to a family’s success. If Jesus commanded His disciples to love each other with the same kind of love He Himself had (John 13: 3 4; 15:13), how much more does this apply to families!
“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” 1 John 4:11-12.
If we want to understand the nature of God’s love, then 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 lists the characteristics for us:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…” (see also 1 John 3:1; 4:7-16).
Grace in the Family
Grace is not just something God extends toward us (Eph.1:7). We can also extend grace to one another (Eph.4:32). God’s love does not wait for a person to be deserving (Rom.5:8-9). Like our heavenly Father, we too can extend grace to others in our family (Col.4:6) – even when they don’t deserve it!
Guarding the Garden
Adam and Eve were responsible for tending and guarding the garden of Eden (Gen.2:15), where God would meet with them in the cool of the day (Gen.3:8). The family is like that garden. In the midst of that garden there were two trees (Gen.2:9).
Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil
The knowledge of rights and wrongs can be the most destructive force in family life. This knowledge is behind every argument – “I’m right! You’re wrong!” The fruit of this tree is self-justification, unforgiveness and broken relationships.
Tree of Life
This tree represents God’s own life. Apart from the knowledge of good and evil, this tree includes two more vital ingredients – the love and wisdom to know how to use that knowledge (Prov.3:13,18; 15:4). The fruit of the Tree of Life is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5:22). The responsibility of parents is to guard the garden and make sure that the family eats of the Tree of Life – God’s presence – every day (Psa.34:8). As God’s life flows through each member, family life works as God intends.