The Christian family should provide a haven where each member is secure in the love of his parents, is equally accepted by the other members of the family , and is treated with honor and respect.
Job chapter 1 gives us a glimpse into the family life of one of God’s choicest men who lived in the earliest days of recorded history. The harmony that existed among the siblings of that family is evidenced by a family tradition, in which the sons rotated in providing hospitality to each other on a regular basis. Since property rights fell to the sons, they made sure that their sisters were invited as well. Job observed all this activity, and he committed himself to interceding with God, so that this wholesome practice would be maintained in a God-honoring way. Even in the best traditions, there must be a constant awareness of the dangers of excesses.
Job suffered the loss of his family along with many other afflictions. However, once the trials which God allowed in his life had reached their intended goal, in Job’s “latter end,” he was given another seven sons and three daughters. The emphasis then was on the daughters, and their attractiveness, and the fact that they received their inheritance with their brothers. We can derive this lesson from Job, that when all members of the family show affection and respect for each other, then all the members of that family will have an attractiveness that can be appreciated in all the land (Job 42:15).
Another interesting tradition is introduced by God Himself in Exodus 23:17. All the males were to appear before the Lord three times a year. These occasions would provide excellent opportunities for fathers to explain to their sons the significance of the feasts. (God also states this principle in Exodus 12 regarding the Passover, and in Joshua 4 in relation to the stones.) Throughout the Scriptures, many father-son relationships prove to be very fruitful in this way. In Genesis 22, for example, we see Abraham imparting divine truth to Isaac. Notice that it was after they left the young men to care for the donkeys, and were alone, that Abraham was able to communicate the wonderful promise of God to provide the Lamb. Isaac learned skills from Abraham as he built the altar; he learned ideas regarding the lamb and the subsequent substitution, and he learned values as he saw God’s appreciation of the obedience of Abraham’s faith.
In a similar way, in Philippians 2, Paul speaks of his son in the faith, Timothy, and tells the saints there that after serving with Paul in the gospel, as a son with a father, Timothy had become like-minded with Paul in his genuine care for their state. It would seem to be prudent, then, for fathers to seek opportunities to bond with their sons. Special projects around the home, short camping trips, and helping in outreach activities in the Sunday school are perhaps a few ways where this kind of relationship can be developed. The corollary to this is also true in relation to mothers and daughters. Titus 2:2-5 indicates that some matters are not suitable for public discussion, or even suitable for a brother to approach a young sister for instruction, but is the domain of mothers and older women. Shopping trips and lunches come immediately to mind as a modern day forum for such discussions.
Family Excursions and/or Vacations
Further instruction is given in Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 16 regarding the feasts of the Lord. While the requirements for all the males are reiterated (Deut 16:16), whole families and even whole households are also included (Deut 16:13, 14). Elkanah and Hannah observed this tradition (1Sam 1), as did Israel in the days of Ezra (Neh 8:2), and Mary and Joseph at the time of Christ’s birth (Luke 2:41). Only two of the specified feasts are recorded as being observed-Unleavened Bread and Tabernacles-and both lasted seven days. This gave an excellent opportunity for social interaction among the Lord’s people, and provided a sense of community and fellowship, as well as a time of instruction and reflection upon the Word of God.
This is a very vital part of a young Christian’s training and socialization (especially for those in smaller assemblies), for it allows them to see and appreciate that the people of the Lord are truly the excellent in the earth, and that no other social group can be compared with them. Conferences provide a wonderful venue for this kind of activity. (Perhaps there is a veiled warning in Luke 2, that even the most godly parents can be so absorbed in their participation with such events that they lose sight of the whereabouts of their children.) Family vacations are also fruitful in this way, and care should be taken in planning family vacations so that interactions can take place with other Christians associated with assemblies.
Family Instruction and Exhortation
Another family tradition which the Lord gave through Moses to Israel is the daily, diligent teaching of the Word both by instruction and by example (Deut 6:6-9). It has been observed that when children read their Bibles with their parents from an early age, it helps them gain proficiency in reading with understanding far beyond their peers. Teaching these truths from everyday experiences is an important confirmation in their minds and hearts. Isaiah 50:4 suggests a progressive approach to the daily lives of our children beyond mere instruction. The example is given prophetically of the life of the Lord Jesus. Notice how, in anticipation of the daily path before Him, God gave Him instruction as to what He should say, how He should say it, and when He should say it. The Lord Jesus confirmed this in John 12:49 by saying that He did not speak from Himself, but as the Father commanded Him in what to say and how to say it (marginal reading). With this tremendous example, would it not be prudent for parents to try and anticipate what their children will encounter throughout the day, and try to advise them as to how they should respond, and especially as they might move into a new environment or stage in their lives?
The Challenge in Today’s World
Family life today is very difficult to maintain with respect to time schedules. Employment requires many to work shifts, others to travel extensively, and others to be training to maintain or improve their skills in the workplace. It is important to take advantage of every opportunity to spend time together, and equally important to be at all the assembly meetings, for the assembly can be viewed as our surrogate family.