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Estrangement From Family Members - Part Two
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Articles by Patricia Jones, M.A.
CHARACTERISTICS OF A GODLY HOME
With that, let us now turn to our final question: (3) What is the relationship between parents and children in a family founded on Biblical principles?
Recall that we have already mentioned that children are an inheritance from the Lord, not burdens, ornaments, possessions, or experiences for the parents. What does Paul tell us in this passage? We'll continue reading in chapter 6 of Ephesians:
"Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. Honor your father and mother which is the first commandment with a promise -- that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth. Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:1-4)
As with the husband and wife, Paul instructs each of us to do that which is most difficult. These commands are not easy, they are not natural. Naturally, children will rebel and dishonor their parents. Naturally, fathers will become overbearing, expecting too much and frustrating their children. But God calls us to something different. Children are given two injunctions: to obey and to honor their parents. Obedience is doing what one is told, willing submission to the authority relationship imposed by God. Once again, this authority relationship does not imply a difference in worth or intelligence. (Thank God -- I wouldn't want to compete with my children in intelligence). But children are to obey their parents for the good of the family, to build their own character -- even when the parent is wrong, as he surely will be at times. Honoring parents is somewhat different. Honoring implies respect, building up one's parents, not putting them down to your peers, not taking family differences of opinion outside the home.
Parents are given three injunctions here: to instruct, to train or discipline, and not to exasperate. Instruction is the responsibility of the parents, something our society seems to have forgotten. We cannot depend on schools alone to educate our children academically; we cannot depend on Sunday School alone to instruct our kids in the Word of God. In Deuteronomy chapter 6, God says through Moses: "These commandments I give you this day are to be upon your hearts, and you shall teach them diligently to your children" at all times. Parents have the responsibility to instruct their children in God's word by example and direct teaching. Let us make sure we live up to that responsibility.
Secondly, parents are to train, or discipline their children. Once again, our attitude needs to be one of servant leadership. Discipline must be for the good of the child, not because our feelings were hurt or because we had a bad day at the office. We must discipline our children, even when it is a chore and inconvenient -- and, believe me, administering correct discipline can be a chore for the parent. The child must be assured of our love, and must realize that that very love will not let us tolerate defiant disobedience on the part of the child. This can be a first step towards the child gaining an understanding of the love, justice, and grace of God. Finally, our actions and attitudes must never exasperate our children, or anger them unnecessarily. We must not frustrate them or make them give up hope by expecting them not to behave like children, or expecting them to act beyond their years. Our instruction and discipline should be building them up, not tearing them down. One key to this is ensuring that we have our children's interest truly at heart, and not follow the world in doing what is right for ME.
Let us now draw some of these threads together in conclusion. The world tells us: "Look out for your self." The American family is in such a mess in large measure because of this attitude. How can we deal with this huge problem, "the American family?"
If these problems are to be solved, it will not be through government programs or institutional reform. The only solution to the problem is for American families to change, one by one, your family, my family; the solution is for each of us to know Christ, for Him to change our hearts, so that we may be able to follow the Biblical injunction to think of others more highly than ourselves, to place the needs of our family members above our own.
So as we close, please ask yourself these questions:
Do I know Christ? Have I acknowledged Him as Savior and Lord? Have I asked Him to give me the power to reflect his love to my family?
Jesus tells us, "Apart from me, you can do nothing" (John 15). We certainly cannot follow his command without his strength within us. If you do not know him, ask him into your heart now, today. Feel free to discuss this with me, or one of the elders.
Now that you have the Biblical instructions for how families and the individuals in those families are to function then it is easier to see where we have gone wrong. It is my belief that the demise of the family began with the women's liberation movement. When women started to want to become men. And in doing so, they sent their kids off to day care centers, or had them come home to empty houses, the latch-key phrase was born, and the men lost their power and became less willing to serve and protect their families. In other words, the women libbers emasculated the men.
But we can take this a step further and see that some men caused the women's liberation movement by treating their wives as slaves, sexual objects, beating them, not honoring or loving them as Christ loves the church, and ruling over them in a domineering, Hitler type of way. Thus domestic violence was created.
So it is a vicious circle of men and women not obeying God's initial commands, reversing their roles, and the family has become completely dysfunctional as a result. Add to that the liberal left which does not honor the family, and promotes abortion, same-sex marriage ( which completely goes against God's creation of male and female and their roles) and calls women to take the man's job, etc. and is it no wonder that there are family estrangements galore?
When conservative Christian values went right out the window and the liberal left took over our country, the family went right down the tubes. Now we have our newly elected President saying that the GOVERNMENT IS OUR FAMILY, that the GOVERNMENT will serve and protect us, instead of the individual.
Families are divided today because of their divided political viewpoints. Democrats and Republicans within the same families. Bible believing conservatives with non-bible believeing liberals, adult children who are Democrats and whose view of what a woman's role in society is goes completely against what God says it is clashes with what their conservative parents believe.
So family enstrangements are just part of a much bigger problem. And I believe that problem is the lack of belief in, or respect for God and what He has commanded us to do in the Bible. If you don't believe in the Bible, or you "pick and chose" what you like, and throw out the rest, or take verses out of context, then don't be surprised if your family falls apart.
Patricia Jones, M.A.
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