Families are no freak accident of nature. God planned, purposed and provided for family life. The Creator placed man on the earth (Gen. 2:15). He provided woman as a complementary partner (2:20-23). He purposed that a man and a woman would come together in the most intimate of life-long friendships (2:24-25). And He did this so that the family would be the platform for community life throughout all of human history (4:1-2). I’m sure this is why wedding ceremonies around the world are so important, and often so elaborate. When Paul wrote to young Christians about family life, he referred them directly back to the earliest Scripture on the family (Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:31). And Jesus’ family principles (Mt. 19:4-6) came from Genesis 1:27 and 2:23-24.
Any society can stray from God’s ideal, but His intention for family living remains the same – and it is clear from His Word. We can choose to return to it at any moment. It is up to individual Christians in every society to live by God’s Word. This means we do not live merely by societal expectations, cultural traditions, or peer pressures – especially when such things conflict with Christian teaching. A Christian chooses to follow Christ. This often means being different from the surrounding culture. Paul gives us three principles which demonstrate our faith in and through our family.
1. THE CONTEXT PRINCIPLE
Paul’s teaching in Ephesians should be applied both in our family life and in our life outside the home. For example: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Eph. 4:2 NIV); “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (4:32); “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (5:21). God’s framework for the family begins at home, in the context of a genuine Christian environment. Christianity should be lived out in our homes every hour of every day of every week of every year.
2. THE COMMITMENT PRINCIPLE
Paul understood that the bottom line for a Christian is simply a commitment to live the Christian life all the time (Eph. 5:22-6:4). Notice that a wife should do what she does “as to the Lord” (Eph. 5:22). Her model to follow is the Church’s submission to Christ (5:23-24). A husband is to copy toward his wife the pattern set by our Lord; He loved and sacrificed Himself for His bride, the Church (5:25-29; Rev. 19:7-9). Children are to obey their parents “in the Lord,” and “honor” them as part of their own personal Christian commitment (6:1-2). For them, honoring parents is honoring to the Lord. Parents are to educate their children in the things of God (6:4), and personal example is the greatest way to teach the truth. Jesus was seen to be “full of grace and truth” by His followers (Jn. 1:14). Children should see His “grace and truth” in their parents’ lives.
3. THE CONSIDERATION PRINCIPLE
The word “consideration” means “to take account of, to respect, to reflect upon.” Notice also from Ephesians how Paul wrote about “a profound mystery … Christ and the Church” (Eph. 5:32). He used Christ’s relationship to and responsibility for the Church as examples for the ideal Christian marriage: “Christ is the head of the Church” (5:23); “The Church submits to Christ” (5:24); “Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her” (5:25); Christ makes the Church holy by properly applying the Word (5:26); Christ feeds and cares for the Church (5:29).
Since we are members of Christ’s body (5:30), our Christianity should be attractively seen in our home life, both by our close family members and by those who see our family in action. What we really are as Christians is shown by how we behave at home. Outsiders may not see us as we really are at home, but God does. He is watching for us to follow His principles, and He wants to help us do so (6:10).
By Colin Salter
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org