With these two articles we commence a series of great practical value on marriage and the family. This series will continue through the year.
The Family – A Testimony to the World
Raising a family for God is an overwhelming task. At times, the “mega-project” brings with it more questions than answers, and often the wisdom of experience that is so critical is only appreciated after our children are grown up and have started to form families of their own! But the God who instituted the family unit in the first place has not only revealed His own unique design, but has left us guidelines whereby we can attain His divine purposes.
The Basis of our Testimony
All that God has ever made or instituted carries the stamp of His own heart and hand. The psalmist, deeply moved by God’s handiwork in the heavens, was overwhelmed by the glory of God and the many blessings linked with creation (Ps 19:1-6). Similarly, as he poured over God’s Word, he was impressed by the perfection of the revelation and the wondrous benefits that come through obedience to the “law of the Lord” (Ps 19:7-11). All of God’s workings bring two great realities to view – His own glory and the blessing of His creature. Not surprisingly, the Christian home is also linked with these great purposes.
The family that has experienced the grace of God is designed to be a witness of the glory of His Person. The gospel message that brings salvation to the individual also has intentions of future and expanded blessing. The answer to the anxious cry of the Philippian jailer, “Sirs, What must I do to be saved?” was, interestingly, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved and thy house!” There were far-reaching effects of the gospel in that man’s home.
As a basis for the family being a testimony to the world, the Christian parent needs to understand that God’s call to me affects my children. As Moses contended with Pharaoh, he insisted that “we will go … with our sons and with our daughters” (Ex 10:9). Christianity that doesn’t affect my family is spiritually faulty. We can’t make our children believers, but we can certainly mold their lives. Secondly, God’s call to me is a call of stewardship. We are exhorted to “train,” “rule,” “instruct,” and “guide” our children by word and by practice. A Christian family just doesn’t happen! We have been given this responsibility and stewardship from God. Thirdly, God’s call to me is a call for testimony. There are two prominent houses traced in the Bible: the House of God and the house of the man of God. A man is linked with the testimony of his own house. Noah received the gracious invitation, “Come thou and all thy house into the ark …” (Gen 7:1). God was confident that Abraham would “command his children and his household after him” (Gen 18:19).
The Elements of Our Testimony
Family testimonies have a tremendous impact upon those around us, either for the advance of the gospel or for its detriment. The teaching of scripture has elevated the Christian home to great heights of both blessing and responsibility. A strong, healthy assembly testimony cannot emerge from weak and failing families. Elements of our testimony include the following:
Our families and homes are to reflect the very character of our God. If our assemblies are to be holy, then it follows that our homes should also reflect God’s holiness (1 Pet 1:15-16). Grace teaches us how to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world” (Tit 2:12). As Jacob went up to Bethel he commanded his household to “put away the strange gods” that had become a part of their lives. There was a “spiritual house-cleaning” in view of God’s presence. The Christian home should “put out” and “keep out” all that is incompatible with God’s character. Failure to do so will reap tragic consequences.
Love and Care
Moses’ final instructions to families began with a total and genuine love for the Lord. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart and with all thy soul and with all thy might” (Deut 6:5). That love was then to be seen in their relationships one with another. The Lord Jesus was often drawn to a humble home in Bethany where there was true fellowship and love. Parents that genuinely love each other and their children will stand as distinctive witnesses in an unloving and indifferent world.
God’s purpose from the beginning was that marriage would be permanent and that families remain intact. “What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt 19:6). In an age of “conditional commitment” and of easy break-ups, the Christian home is to be marked by life-long devotion and fidelity pledged in the presence of God. This unwavering permanence provides a stable foundation for the development of happy, well-adjusted children. It’s a sad day for testimony when a home that carries His Name is broken by divorce and sorrow.
Truth and Integrity
Truth has become relative and integrity is a lost commodity in today’s world. In marked contrast, the Christian home should be built and nurtured upon the absolutes of God’s Word. Timothy’s home was characterized by the sowing of the Word of God into his life from earliest childhood, accompanied by “unfeigned faith” in his mother and grandmother. Moses and Samuel are other examples of lives that were molded by the firm conviction that God’s Word can be trusted and obeyed with great reward. There was no doubt in these young men’s minds that their parents were living for a spiritual kingdom, and their lives were guided by the Word of the living God. Is it any wonder that men and women like these became mighty witnesses to their age?
God’s distinctive order for fathers, mothers, and children is under siege. The suggestions and experiments of today are only leading to dysfunctional homes. Both parents must take the role that God gives them. Instead, some fathers are dictatorial tyrants. Others are “puppets.” The behavior of mothers swings between domineering and passive. Often there is no consistency of disciplinary action between spouses. Our homes are to be a witness of divine order and government where God’s honor is upheld. Balance is essential.
The Family – A Target of Satan
That the family, and in particular the Christian family, is under attack is an understatement. Satan has always sought to op pose, neutralize, and annihilate everything that is marked by the design and purpose of God. He was successful in leading the world’s first family to disobedience, marital discord, sibling rivalry, and murder. Not a good start for family testimony! Both Abraham and Jacob felt the hot sting of reproach and shame linked with their families. Abraham’s personal failure in Egypt resulted in his expulsion from the country (Gen 12 ), while the treachery and cruelty of Jacob’s sons caused his family name to “stink among the inhabitants of the land” (Gen 34:30). Many a man who has done great personal exploits for God has had to face failure in the area of home testimony.
Sadly, every facet of testimony for God continues to come under the attack of the enemy. Purity and holiness in the home have been strongly challenged by permissive values and worldly mind sets. Perhaps we might be shocked to examine the videos, CDs, and books lining the shelves of some believers’ homes today. It is also possible for us to allow the wickedness, violence, and sexual immorality of the ungodly world to fill our minds and eyes vicariously. The sad results are soon manifested in an inability to worship, a lack of interest in the Word of God, and an indifference to Gospel outreach.
The love and care that is to reflect the heart of our God is often forfeited for a desire for materialistic gain and temporal pleasures. Fathers become too busy making money to be the spiritual guides for their children. Mothers feel that it is necessary to find personal fulfillment in employment outside the home. Children are left to “fend for themselves.” And then we wonder why our children have so little interest in salvation or in being a vital part of assembly life! Our homes have become like airports with a lot of coming and going but little depth of personal interaction. Some are more like a “bed-and-breakfast” than a place of refuge, togetherness, and refreshment for our families and the needy all around us.
Godly order and home government are also under siege. Humanistic philosophies are chipping steadily away at the very foundation of the godly home. Children are being taught to doubt, question, and challenge authority. Even governments are hurling legal demands against Christian teaching and practice within our own family units. A sad but outstanding example concerns Eli, the high priest, who had grown “soft” on obedience to God’s Word. His ineffective re-proofs and his refusal to judge his own sons resulted in blatant immorality at the very door of the tabernacle and eventually led to the righteous judgment of God.
The crisis cannot be overstated. Christian homes are being slowly and insidiously undermined as the enemy continues His relentless attack upon all that is linked with God and His eternal purposes. We must recoguize Satan’s tactics and retum to God’s original design. Godly parents who are seeking to establish and maintain homes for the glory of God are to be commended. May their numbers increase, and may the mandate to “declare His Glory among the nations” only be strengthened and advanced until our Lord returns.