Family is a unit of people who support each other. God created family for relationship with himself and with each other. Family synonyms: inheritance, relationship, people. Family is a group of people affiliated either by birth, by marriage, or by sharing, nurturing, accepting, and respecting each other. There are clear guidelines to what God doesn’t want in a family and what he does. Starting with the positive verses first and then the behaviors we should avoid. If we follow what God intended, it would encompass those who work together as one unit. By God’s definition, as a church or family, we are one body and in marriage, we become one person. The Bible tells us we each have a role to play:
The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body [family] of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit… Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 & 13:4-7
“‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one* flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Mark 10:7-9
We are also told there are things that God detests in any family:
There are six things the Lord hates—no, seven things he detests:
a lying tongue,
hands that kill the innocent,
a heart that plots evil,
feet that race to do wrong,
a false witness who pours out lies,
a person who sows discord in a family. Proverbs 6:16-19
But to focus on individual families, such as parents, whose kids grow up and marry, eventually having kids of their own, then become grandparents… Where does God tell us to stand in this role? We’ve raised them the best we could, now it’s their turn. Do we continue to give advice? ‘No, not unless they ask, and then as led by the Holy Spirit. IF we put in our two cents, we must remember that it is only two cents, compared to their 98 cents – meaning they must make their own decisions!” We need to greet their decisions with open minds, not interference. The only exception would be, if they’re in a dangerous situation. Other than that, we should be hands off! We should embrace their spouse and make them feel comfortable and part of ‘the family’ — never an outsider. I call my children’s spouses ‘in-loves’ because their relationship goes deeper than a law or sheet of paper they signed. It is a commitment they’ve made; with God. This is where the peeling away of resistance comes into play. We must accept their decision, even if and when we don’t agree. Fortunately, I agree with my kid’s decisions in mates.
God spoke in the Old Testament of being circumcised to be part of his family. Under the New Testament or Grace, this would be circumcision of the heart, the peeling away of the layers of our heart that have hardened to anyone we didn’t choose for our kids; being open to those outside the family, by accepting them for who they are, not who we want them to be. Families accept not just their blood family, but also their children’s spouses. They don’t interfere by trying to influence their children against their partners by pointing out perceived flaws.
For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people. Romans 2:28-29 & Ephesians 2:11
As Jesus was speaking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, and they want to speak to you.” Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!” Matthew 12:46-50
In the second verse, Jesus turned the verse around to those questioning him and said anyone who did the will of God is his family. Therefore by his view, there wasn’t anyone outside his family unless they didn’t follow God. So, how do we view “outsiders” in our family? Do we view them as those who follow God as being in our family or are they outsiders if they aren’t born into our family? Do we accept others or view them as foreigners? If they have children from a previous marriage, are their children truly part of the family or do we label them as ‘the former spouse’s kids?’ Do we treat them equally as our grandkids or do we give the “natural” grandkids preferential treatment? It doesn’t matter how they came into the family, and neither should the current spouse of our children, they should be embraced and accepted, just as we accept our OWN children, without preferential treatment and without prejudice.
Are we willing to accept our children’s decisions in choosing a spouse? Or do we think we know better than they; who is suited for them? If we don’t accept them, isn’t that a reflection on what we view as important? If we’re opposed to their decisions, perhaps our children have chosen someone diametrically opposed to our views and it’s alien to our thinking. Maybe our kids are tired of how we act and want to find someone with a different attitude. Perhaps it’s time to search our own souls instead of trying to find something wrong with their mate or find fault with our own children. Our opposition may require a little personal soul searching instead of attacks on their selection. Perhaps we should just embrace their decisions and keep peace in the family, instead of making their marriage difficult.
How are we contributing to our own family? How are we contributing to our church family or the community family? Are we making a positive influence in each situation, or do we feel that if we make a positive influence at church, we don’t need to at home? The family influence starts in our homes. If we aren’t making a positive influence in our own home family, we aren’t effective at church family or in our own community. Have you met people who complain about their role at home, or all the volunteer work they do at church? It gets wearisome just listening to them. Jesus said take my yoke upon you, cease from our labors, and allow the Holy Spirit to work through us, at home, in church, and in the community. We need to submit to the leadership of God through Christ via the Holy Spirit. But the best way we can help our grown children is by staying out of their lives and accepting them. It is by not interfering. It is by setting good examples. The only example they or we should be following is the example of Christ. The only inheritance that matters is our inheritance of eternal life. When that is our focus and not what worldly goods we leave when we’re gone, or who we give preference to, then we’ll have peace in our families. But we must allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in our daily lives, each hour.
God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan. God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people [family]. He did this so we would praise and glorify him. Ephesians 1:9-14
We were chosen by God–the entire family of God, which is those who follow Him.
*Note: My emphasis in Mark 10