God established the family, and the home is the place where the family’s deepest needs are met. Every home should be built on the Rock, which is the Lord Jesus Christ (Mt. 7:24). The family should have priority above business, pleasure and friends. it should be highly valued, loved and not treated like a restaurant or gas station where one fills up and leaves. As family conflicts emerge every effort should be made to resolve them on the same day they occur so no one goes to bed angry. The apostle Paul wrote, “do not let the sun go down on your wrath” (Eph. 4:26 NKJV). And knowing the Lord Jesus is the master key to resolving all conflicts. Different concepts of the family have been presented by various authors, including “open and closed families,” “functional and dysfunctional families” and “normal and abnormal families.” However, based on my own experience in Christian ministry, I find three concepts about family relationships helpful.
The Immature Relationship
First, the immature relationship is burdened with conflicts – such as discomfort, distress, resentment, anger and shame – because of childish behavior and lack of responsibility. Although the husband, wife and children are living in the same house, there is no headship, and an organism without a head is dead. If the husband fails to take his God-given role as head of the family (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:23), and the wife doesn’t assist him in leading, each one in the family does what is right in his/her own eyes, ignoring the needs of the others (Jud. 17:6).
The Mediocre Relationship
Second, in the mediocre relationship some value is placed on the family structure and some conflicts are resolved, but there is still confusion about the roles in the relationship. This relationship has two heads, so there is a constant power struggle between husband and wife as to the leadership role. Any organism with two heads will be confused. It has often been stated that “two heads are better than one,” but this is only true if they are functioning together in unity. In the mediocre family relationship the husband and wife (and sometimes even one of the children) will assume the role as head over the others, with confusion and conflict as consequences.
The Mature Relationship
Third, in the mature relationship each parent demonstrates genuine love to the other, and there is “structure” of open and honest communication. There is peace and joy within the home, and when conflicts surface they are recognized and resolved in a loving and healing manner. The husband is the head of the family, and as head he leads humbly in a manner that provides, protects and pursues realistic family goals. He does not think in terms of superiority or inferiority, but simply accepts from God that “the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the Church” (Eph. 5:23). He loves and cherishes his wife who in turn recognizes his role and submits to him in love. The harmony displayed in the mature relationship becomes a model for the children, as their needs are met and they learn within the family system. For this family “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6), and real happiness does not depend on having much to live on, but on having much to live for.
There is a heart cry for more “mature” family relationships in which peace, joy, contentment and love govern. Families desire a happier family life and a closer relationship with God. The percentage of Americans who say a good family life is “very important” has risen from 80% in 1985 to 90% in 2005, according to one national poll.
By Emanuel V. John