The Christian Family

The name "Christian" does not mean much in the world anymore, except maybe "not Buddhist" or "not Muslim," or something like that. But taking its original and long forgotten meaning, "Christ-one," a follower of Jesus Christ, we ask, "What makes a family a Christian family?" How can we tell one when we see it? Are there distinctive features that will help us pick out of a group of families those that are Christian? How about our homes, how can we discern if they are really Christian?

Outward appearances are certainly no guarantee of having a Christian family, are they? Here is one home with Scripture texts on the walls and a family Bible on the table. The members head out for the meetings of the church each week. Their family car has a "Jesus is Lord" sticker, a "fish" sticker, or a "Christian Marriage Encounter" sticker on the back. However, what if we could be inside the house or the car with them, to listen and observe. Would we hear arguments, and carnal conversations? Would the children be whining, complaining, or showing disrespect to their parents? What would we notice about how they treat one other when they’re alone as a family, not "on exhibition"? Would we feel tension between the husband and wife, parents and children, or brothers and sisters? Would there be frowns and the pointed fingers, raised voices, tears? Perhaps. In many cases, probably. We’d soon learn that Christian activities and decorations cannot make a family Christian. Also, the mere fact that a family has Christians in it doesn’t ensure that it is a Christian family, because that’s quite a different matter. Religious activities and outward appearances cannot earn, in God’s sight, the name "Christian" for any family. There is more to it than that, isn’t there?

A Christian family is a family with Christians in it. And more, those Christians live daily life, meaning all those times when they are not in meetings of the church and when no one’s watching, in a way that brings glory to God. They live by the principles for family life that are found in God’s Word. They may have never been to a family conference, retreat, or enrichment session. They may have never had a sociology class at all. In fact, if this is true of them they have an advantage, believe it or not! The advantage is not having other ideas and presentations to clutter úp their hearts and compete with the Word of God. The Christian family knows where, to find the principles for family life, they are in the Scriptures. In this family, the Bible is lived out in the lives of the members in the everyday grind of life. God’s Word has a grip on their hearts, so that attitudes and actions flow from it’s sacred pages. Christ rules as Lord in the Christian family.

The family is the basic, God-ordained functional unit of human society. God, in His infinite wisdom gave order to His creation. He created a man, put him in Eden,and made a family around him there. The family began when God united Adam and Eve, but existed long before then in the mind of God as His plan for life on earth (Genesis 1:28; 2:21-25). In this He indicated that the family was to be His way of propagating the human race and populating the earth. God stated His favor toward the family again by including family relationships in the Ten Commandments, "honor thy father and thy mother" (Exodus 20:12). The New Testament repeatedly reaffirms God’s interest in the affairs of family life by such teachings as, "children obey your parents;" "Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath;" "Husbands, love your wives," and "wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands." The fact that such principles are found in both Old and New Testaments says to us that God has not changed His design for the family since it began. Contrary to voices in society around us, the family is not outdated, outmoded, ineffective, repressive, or unimportant. It is a masterpiece of God’s workmanship!

The family, as God’s "invention," does not need worldly wisdom in order to survive or flourish. Unfortunately, even in "Christian circles," yes, even in assemblies, psychology has crept in under the guise of "family ministry," "marriage counseling," "parenting seminars," and other such activities. Some family camps, couples retreats, etc. are used as springboards for getting the world’s wisdom into the church. In many cases, we, who profess to be so solidly Biblical, need to get back to the Bible, especially since 2 Timothy 3:17 declares that it is the complete equipment of the man of God.

Getting more specific, what about our own homes? How can we define a Christian home in terms that are specific enough to help us tell if we’re fitting the description and do something about it if we’re not? Good question! Honestly though, there is no verse in the Bible that says, "A Christian family is one that ...." Sorry! However, there is plenty of instruction in the Scriptures. God in His wisdom did not organize the Bible into a "systematic theology" book. We must therefore read the Bible through and through. As we read and study the Word we find that we can draw from a number of different passages throughout it, to form a working description of a godly family. And there are plenty of passages that speak of the family, so take heart!

Here is one description of the family that we could compose from the Scriptures.

1. God comes first in everything, not just in their daily devotions. They live for Him, for His glory, not for self (Matthew 6:33; Luke 14:6, Colossians 1:18). (Sadly, many professing Christians today do not even know what devotions are!)

2. The husband is a godly man, who takes full responsibility for the leadership of the family in a godly way, and devotes time to his marriage and family (Genesis 3:16; 18:19; Colossians 3:18).

3. The husband lovingly and diligently assumes his responsibility to provide for and protect the family. He shepherds the little flock God has given him (Ephesians 5:25, 28-29; 1 Timothy 5:8).

4. The wife both professes and practices godliness. She is oriented to her husband and her home, and works in the home as a helper and co-laborer with her husband (Genesis 2:18, Proverbs 31:10-31; 1 Corinthians 11:9; Titus 2:4-5).

5. Both parents educate (train up) their children in the home, teaching them what it means to live in a godly way, and to be holy, not worldly. They consider themselves, that is, their own example, and also guide the children in both knowledge and practice (Exodus 2:9; Ephesians 6:4; 2 Timothy 1:7; 3:15).

6. The children learn to be godly, not worldly (this carries over into teenage years and young adult life). They learn to honor their parents in day to day life, by responding positively when taught, and by loving, respectful, prompt obedience, and to show brotherly love to one another (Ephesians 6:1-3; Colossians 3:20).

7. The family is working together in support of the local assembly, reaching out and ministering to others for Christ’s sake and the Gospel’s. It is not viewed as a higher priority than the church, nor does it view service in the assembly as a threat or competition (1 Kings 17:10-13; 2 Kings 4:8-10; Mark 1:28-34; Luke 18:28-30; Acts 18:24-26).

Having said all this, we must remember that the Christian marriage and family is a life-long dynamic process, not a project than can be finished in a few years. It is important to begin early, and in the case of those saved after married or after having children, it is still important to make a clean break with the past and get off to a good start in the Christian life. No one has a perfect family, but in spite of this there are some that can be cited as examples. Such was the household of Stephanas (1 Corinthians 16:15), a family " the ministry of the saints," and worthy of imitation and collaboration. In Spanish there is a saying, "it’s easier to criticize than to imitate." However, as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, may we learn to imitate the godly qualities of families in the Scriptures, and in those around us inasmuch as we are able to discern. With the Lord’s help, we may be able to live in such a way that will not only bring glory to Him, but also be an encouragement and help to others along the way. May we take our responsibility seriously, and may the Lord help us to really have Christian homes, and not just homes in which some Christians live.