Christians are responsible to nurture their family relationships. Failure in this area will hinder or destroy our Christian example, while success is a great blessing in all aspects of life and ministry. Not all families are alike, and no family is perfect, but our family relationships should demonstrate our spiritual priorities and commitments.
Some act as though serving the church comes first while family comes second, but God doesn’t expect us to choose between the two. Certainly, our personal relationship with God comes first in that we must serve God even if our family doesn’t agree. However, fulfilling our family responsibilities is part of serving God.
Fulfilling our family responsibilities is part of serving God.
Moreover, we are called to be good spouses and parents before we are called to serve outside the home. We can’t use Christian service as a reason to neglect or sacrifice our family. We should trust God to open appropriate doors of service and to help us serve in the context of effective family relationships.
Maintaining a healthy marriage is part of serving God. Peter instructed, “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (I Peter 3:7, NKVB). If we don’t treat our spouse right, with respect for their strengths, weaknesses, and limitations, we hinder our relationship with God. There is no justification for verbal, emotional, or physical abuse.
The five keys to a stronger marriage are:
Love is the supreme virtue in Christian life and the key to a strong marriage. (See Ephesians 5:25; Titus 2:4.) Love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all
Love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (I Corinthians 13:7–8).
things. Love never fails” (I Corinthians 13:7–8, NKJV). If a relationship fails, it does so only because love didn’t remain paramount. Marriage partners must take time to love one another, express their love, and renew their love. First Corinthians 13 provides an excellent foundation for understanding godly love. As Christians, we must cherish our spouse. Alongside our relationship with God, our relationship with our spouse is top priority.
If marriage partners have good communication, they can find ways to overcome every problem. If communication is poor, then every problem, even a trivial one, can become major.
We cannot build a strong relationship without investing significant time. It’s important to have quality time, but we can’t simply plan for quality without quantity, because meaningful interactions often come at unplanned moments. We need both quality and quantity. We must designate times in our schedule and calendar for our spouse, our children (individually and collectively), and the whole family. We can’t leave these times to chance or postpone them frequently, but we must plan time together. Spouses should plan dates when they can participate in a leisure activity and enjoy each other’s company without discussing problems.
It’s important to be sensitive to the needs and feelings of one’s spouse. Each should take time to learn what the other is interested in or concerned about, to empathize, to see things from the other’s perspective.
Encouragement is one of the great benefits of marriage. When one spouse is discouraged, frustrated, or tired, the other can encourage; when both are discouraged they can go to the Lord together. (See Ecclesiastes 4:9–12.) When one detects that the other is struggling or upset, this is the time to encourage and express faith instead of injecting more gloom and doubt. God can use us to strengthen our spouse, and in turn our spouse will strengthen us.
Children have the same five needs of love, communication, time, sensitivity, and encouragement. While children are to obey their parents, the Bible also teaches about the responsibilities of parents, particularly fathers as representative of family leadership: “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4, NKJV). Parents are to train, nourish, care for, and provide for their children, not only physically and emotionally but also spiritually. While this responsibility includes correction, parents should always discipline in love.
Strong families offer security, strength, and hope in our broken world.
They must do so within appropriate boundaries; it is never appropriate to abuse children verbally, emotionally, or physically. Parents shouldn’t discipline in a way that provokes children to anger. While children won’t always be happy with their parents’ decisions, parents should carefully evaluate their own attitude and communication toward their children. They shouldn’t discipline with rage, contempt, or hatred. Nor should they ridicule, belittle, or demean their children. Even when children respond inappropriately, it’s the parents’ responsibility as mature Christians to exemplify love, care, and kindness. If they misjudge or mistreat their children, they should apologize. In this way they can serve as role models for their children and others.
Strong families make good disciples and build strong churches. They offer security, strength, and hope in our broken world.
Adapted from Spiritual Leadership in the Twenty-First Century.