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« Your Relation Relationship | Main | Don’t Call Them Sanctuary Cities »

Your Relation Relationship: Jesus as Family

(This is the first segment of the next chapter in “Hand in Hand: Deepening Your Relationship with Jesus Christ”)

The old proverb, “blood is thicker than water,” speaks to the idea that family relationships are stronger and more important than friendships.  While there are exceptions, this view holds true in most cases.  The biological ties between persons related by blood—parent/child, sibling/sibling or extended family relationships—call for loyalty and honor that eclipses all other bonds.  Anyone who is in a serious and committed relationship with Jesus Christ will honor his or her family.   

God’s creation of Adam an Eve as a married couple, and their command to be fruitful and multiply, serves as a model for the family structure.  Out of this construct, we can discern the general purpose of the family and get an idea of how it was to operate.  Paul expounds.  Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 1 Corinthians 11:2-3.  The relationship between family members became highly significant in terms of the social order and civilization.  This order provided the basis of law, government and society. 

Family studies, of course, covers an immense field, so we must limit our scope to the effect that Jesus has on our biological family.  How does one’s relationship with Christ impinge upon his or her treatment of family?  Modern views of this basic building block of society have shaken the foundations.  Divorce, same-sex marriage, transgenderism, feminism, abortion and other radical shifts in the family structure and reproductive issues call for a reexamination of Biblical values.   Ten areas of concern deserve our scrutiny. 

Importance of Family Name 

Onomastics, or the study of names, occupies a strategic place in our understanding of history, geography and anthropology.  Origins of nations, tribes and ethnic groupings, as well as individual family trees derive from the study of names.  Today, onomastics has become a vast and complex field of study.  

“This year, more than 120 million babies will be born on earth. Those who survive will sooner or later undergo the initiation process of receiving a name. At one time anthropologists thought that some groups of people were so “primitive” and unorganized that they didn’t use names. We now know that the anthropologists were mistaken and that the idea came about because research fieldworkers were not able to get inside the minds of the people well enough to understand the customs and taboos that required that names be kept secret from strangers (Feldman). The truth is that names are a part of every culture and that they are of enormous importance both to the people who receive names and to the societies that give them.” H. Edward Deluzain. 

Reverence for names may be found throughout the Bible.  God, Himself, set the standard in the third commandment, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God in vain. Exodus 20:7.  In the Old Testament, the giving and receiving of a name was central to a person’s status.  While each person was given a unique first name, he or she also inherited a surname or family name.  The first name was used among close associates, but the surname indicated the family, clan, tribe or nation to which one belonged.  When Abraham’s servant went to find a bride for Isaac, he met Rebecca and asked her,  “Whose daughter are you? Tell me, please, is there room in your father’s house for us to lodge?”  So she said to him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel, Milcah’s son, whom she bore to Nahor.” Genesis 24:23-24. She identified herself by Bethuel because, in those days, the last name was expressed in terms of the father’s name.  Since surnames identified entire groups, they carried with them the reputation and honor of the name in question.  By her name alone, Eliezer knew much about this maid who served his camels. 

The Abrahamic Covenant incorporated Abraham’s name as part of the promise.  I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. Genesis 12:2.  A thorough treatment of this vast subject would take many pages, so let us summarize by saying that the family name was to be held in high esteem, inviolable and above reproach.  Each member of a family was charged with honoring the name that he or she bore.  This curse was pronounced upon those who provoked the Lord.  Behold, My servants shall sing for joy of heart, But you shall cry for sorrow of heart, And wail for grief of spirit. You shall leave your name as a curse to My chosen; For the Lord GOD will slay you, And call His servants by another name. Isaiah 65:14-15. Also, the wise man of Proverbs said,  “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.” Proverbs 22:1.  Implicit in these pronouncements is the decree to honor one’s family name. 

Providing for One’s Family 

Committed Christian parents place the welfare of their family above their own lives.  The New Testament issues a scathing rebuke for those who neglect their families. But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5:8.  Child abandonment, failure to care for one’s children or thrusting the obligation of parenting onto others amounts to a grievous sin in the eyes of God.  Particularly egregious is catering to selfish pleasures when one’s own children have not had their basic needs met.  Mothers and fathers have a duty to attend to their children’s needs first before taking care of themselves.   

Modern families at or below the poverty level have become accustomed to state agencies stepping in to take care of children.  The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services operates a program called The Child Care and Development Fund which “provides assistance to low-income families who need child care due to work, work-related training and/or attending school.”  Nearly every state has federally-funded Head Start programs.  Other states assist with Child Care and Adult Food Program, Social Services Block Grant, Special Improvement Project, Transitional Living Program for Homeless Youth, along with many county and municipality programs.   

These programs have benefitted many children in poverty, but they have also been abused and defrauded in many cases, not only by welfare recipients, but by the employees of the agencies themselves.  In the bigger picture, one wonders how many parents have turned their children’s care over to the government while pursuing their own selfish pleasures.  Christian parents, even if they must access these programs in desperate situations, should do everything in their power to meet their family needs by honest work.  In the end, the children’s welfare is not the state’s responsibility, but the parents. 

Duties of Husbands and Wives 

No human relationship is more symbolic of Christ and His Church than marriage.  All the elements necessary to a a good relationship—love, commitment, faithfulness, communication—are best illustrated in the union between husband and wife.  It is no mystery, then, that marriage partners who have a healthy relationship with God most likely have a solid marriage.  But the Bible does not leave the concept of marriage to the abstract.  Concrete rules to reduce the terms of marriage into nuts and bolts appear throughout Scripture. 

Husbands are to love their wives, provide for them, treat them with gentleness and kindness, and show them the respect they deserve.  The Apostle Paul clearly equates the role of the husband with the relationship Christ has with His church.  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church … So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church … This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.  Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself.”  Ephesians 5:25-33.  These guidelines go beyond mere civility or male attitudes.  The Scriptures set forth marriage as a model of oneness and companionship.  The special creation of Eve specifically highlights this role.  (Genesis 2:20-24). 

The Bible instructs wives to submit to their husband’s leadership, treat him with respect and be obedient to his commands.  While this language seems sexist and out of place in modern society, it was never meant to be followed in a totalitarian or dictatorial way.  Paul includes this disclaimer.  Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Colossians 3:18.  When a husband is submitted to Christ, the wife has comfort in submitting to her husband.  By her submission, she is showing her submission to Christ.  If her husband is not a spiritual man, she should still submit to him insofar as it is pleasing to God.  Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.  For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands,  as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror. 1 Peter 3:1-6. 

Finally, with regard to intimacy in marriage, the Scriptures are not silent.   Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.  Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.  Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 1 Corinthians 7:2-5.  When a married couple conscientiously follows these admonitions, the relationship can flourish and become strong. 

(More to come).

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