Picture the scenario. You’re running late. The morning has gotten away from you, and now it’s time to get out the door. You grab your keys, jump into the car, and drive away. That seems like a manageable enough situation.
But now imagine you’re running late, the morning has gotten away from you, and it’s time to get out the door, but you have two (or more) children to also get out the door, also. You’ve asked them multiple times to “get their socks and shoes on!” and “find your coat and hat!”
“Does anyone have to go to the bathroom!?”
You’ve already put the socks and shoes on one child, but now you notice that both the socks and the shoes are off and nowhere to be found.
“What?!” You ask yourself, again, “Why does this happen all the time? Is my family the only one that can’t seem to get out the door on time? Why is this so stressful?”
Most of us have been in this situation before. The expectations we place on ourselves and our families are extraordinary: The expectations to get everything done, get everyone out the door, make everyone happy and be in control. The expectation to work a full-time job (or jobs) and cook well-rounded, healthy meals, and make sure your children are participating in all the “right” activities.
Are my children healthy? Are my children happy? Am I doing everything right? Is my family perfect?
No. The answer is no. It will always be no.
So, does that mean we stop trying? Does that mean we give up, put in less effort? Again, no.
Strong Families Need Faith
Cultivating a happy, healthy family takes hard work, endless perseverance, love, and faith. It takes help from our friends, our community and, often times, even strangers.
It takes a complete trust that if we are faithful, and we put God at the center of our families, God will, in turn, provide for our families, protect our families, and nurture our families.
So how do we put God at the center of our family? What does the Bible tell us we can do, and how can we implement that into our own lives? Arguably, the most important building block of a strong family begins with a strong marriage.
Strong Families Need Strong Marriages
The Bible has much to say about marriage, and although the practice of marriage in Biblical times was different from today’s modern society, the major tenets remain. Marriage comes from God.
The concept of marriage is so important that it is introduced in the first chapter of the first book in the Bible. As we see in Genesis 1:28,
“God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’” – Genesis 1:28
God’s plan for creation was for men and women to marry and have children. A man and a woman would form a “one-flesh” union through marriage (Genesis 2:24), and they with their children become a family, the essential building block of human society.
Seems simple enough, right? Yet so many marriages end in divorce.
Rather than discussing the myriad of reasons a marriage may dissolve, let’s look briefly at the Biblical origins of marriage. The creation of Eve from Adam’s rib is a remarkable event. So remarkable, in fact, that the bible devotes four whole verses to it.
That’s it, four.
At first glance, it would seem like something this momentous should receive a lot more “air” time. But what if we viewed these four verses as God did? What if we trusted in God’s plan and knew that his creation of Eve was divine, a perfect match for Adam?
God saw that Adam was lonely and decided to form a partner for him. This act of love was extraordinary and should be remembered daily in every marriage.
What if every husband and wife viewed each other as an extraordinary love gift from God? What if every man and woman lived a God-centered life where they trusted that God would find them an extraordinary match?
Isaiah 62:5 says,
“…as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” – Isaiah 62:5b
If we put our trust in God, putting him at the center of our faith, perhaps the success of marriage would be much greater.
In many situations, the natural progression of marriage is having children and starting a “family.” When we talk about having children, the concept of “one flesh” again becomes very important. It is the fundamental characteristic of a Godly marriage.
In God’s eyes, the ideal for marriage is that the two become one in purpose. They share the same values, the same goals, the same outlook. With God’s help, they work together to build a strong, Godly family and raise their children to be Godly people.
This is no small task. Those of us who are parents know that the pressures of daily life, society and, in some cases, basic time can easily become overwhelming. In some cases, it may feel as if you are stuck in survival mode.
Strong Families are Evenly Yoked
The pressures that come with parenting are enormous. This is yet another reason that choosing a partner according to God’s criteria is so important. God has warned us about this and has prepared us.
We see this played out in the scriptures when Abraham makes his chief servant swear that he will find a wife for Isaac that is not from the Canaanites where they live, but in his “home” country (Genesis 24: 3,4).
We see it again in Deuteronomy 7, when God commands the Israelites not to intermarry with the nations whom they have conquered saying,
“Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods…” – Deuteronomy 7:3,4
Perhaps most importantly, Paul tells us in II Corinthians 6,
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? …what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? …As God has said, ‘I will live with them and walk among them and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’” – 2 Corinthians 6:14,15b,16b
Clearly, God is giving us good instruction. He knows that the pressures of marriage and family will be enormous.
He is reminding us that choosing our partner is perhaps the single most important decision we will make for our family. It is not a decision to be taken lightly, and we must remember to seek God’s guidance every step of the way.
Strong Families are Communal
We now turn to the social aspect of family. It is important to note that the Bible has a much more communal sense of people and family than Western culture today is generally willing to admit. Today’s Western society views citizens more as individuals than people in the Middle East do and definitely more so than the people of the ancient near East did.
When God saved Noah from the flood, it wasn’t an individual-case salvation, but a salvation for him, his wife, his sons and his sons’ wives. In other words, his family was saved (Genesis 6:18). When God called Abraham out of Haran, He called him and his family (Genesis 12:4,5).
The sign of the Abrahamic covenant (circumcision) was to be applied to all males within one’s household, whether sons or part of the household servant staff (Genesis 17:12,13). In other words, God’s covenant with Abraham was familial, not individual.
The importance of family can also be seen in the provisions of the Mosaic covenant. For example, two of the Ten Commandments deal with maintaining the cohesiveness of the family. The fifth commandment regarding honoring parents is meant to preserve the authority of parents in family matters, and the seventh commandment prohibiting adultery protects the sanctity of marriage.
From these two commandments flow all of the various other stipulations of the Mosaic Law which seek to protect marriage and the family. The health of the family was so important to God that it was included in the national covenant of Israel.
Those of you reading this who have families can appreciate that the idea of losing yourself as an individual when you have a family is not a foreign one. The countless nights awake with a sick child, the countless hours worrying about the physical, mental and psychological wellbeing of your children, and the fact that, once you are married, you now have a whole new set of family members in the form of in-laws and other extended family, all bring a different perspective.
From the perspective of a parent, the transition from individual to communal seems like an easy one. It is an expectation, right?
But the truth is that we need each other. We need our community, and we need to trust, rely, and depend on one another. No matter what stage in life you are in, you always have something to share, and you always have something to learn from others.
God understands that being part of a community and an extended family is not only a reality, but a necessity.
Galatians 6 tells us to “carry each other’s burdens.”
Hebrews 10 says,
“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another…” – Hebrew 10:25a
Strong Families are Spiritual Families
The theological concept of family is also important. During His ministry, Yeshua questioned some prevailing notions of what it meant to be part of a family:
“While Yeshua was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.’ He replied to him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’” – Matthew 12:46-50
Of course, Yeshua is not saying that biological family isn’t important; He is not dismissing His mother and brothers. But what He is doing is making the point that in the Kingdom of Heaven, the most important family connection is spiritual, not physical.
This is a truth made explicitly clear in John’s Gospel, when John says,
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” – John 1:12,13
When we are born physically, we’re born into a physical family, but when we are “born again,” we are born into a spiritual family. To use Pauline language, we are adopted into God’s family (Romans 8:15).
When we are adopted into God’s spiritual family, God becomes our Father. This spiritual family is not bound by ethnicity, gender or social standing.
As Paul says,
“You are all sons of God through faith in Messiah Yeshua, for all of you who were baptized into Messiah have clothed yourselves with Messiah. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua. If you belong to Messiah, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” – Galatians 3:26-29
So, what does the Bible say about family? The physical family is the most fundamental building block of human society, and as such, it should be nurtured and protected.
But more important than this is the new creation that God is making in Messiah, which is comprised of a spiritual family made up of all people who call upon Yeshua as Savior.
This is a family drawn “from every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7:9), and the defining characteristic of this spiritual family is love for one another:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34,35