The Family as God Intended it

by Steven Chan

The family unit has been under intense attack in recent years. How should the family be managed? Even some Christians seem to think that in the area of the family, there is no guidance from the Scriptures. When it comes to the area of the family, some merely follow their own ideas, thoughts, and philosophies, or imitate the families of their parents or grandparents, without any thought to what God has to say in this important matter. Some read self-help books that they can find in the bookstores or local library. But God has much to say about the family unit as He was the One who instituted the family when He first made man and woman and asked them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Gen 1:28)

So, what does God say about the how the family is to be managed?

In Col 3:18-21, the Bible says: “18 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. 20 Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”

1. It starts with the instruction given to the wives: “submit to your own husbands”. Paul gave the same instruction in his epistle to the church at Ephesus: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.”( Eph 5:22-25)

In 1 Cor 11:3, the apostle Paul said: “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.” Inasmuch as Christ is the head of every man, and God is the head of Christ, the husband is the head of the wife. If Christ who is equal with the Father (Phil 2: 5-6) was willing to submit Himself to His Father, there is no reason for wives to be upset with God’s instruction for them to “submit” to their own husbands.  That is the divine order of things. Of course, Christians are to submit to one another as well in the fear of the Lord (Eph 5:21).

There should be no power struggle in the Christian family as that would NOT be fitting in the Lord. It does not befit a Christian wife to refuse to be submissive to her husband. A Christian woman should choose wisely and not marry one that she is unwilling or unable to submit to.

2. “Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them” – God knows that there are risks associated with the instruction to wives to submit to their own husbands. To ensure that wives are not abused and taken advantage of by their husbands, God instructed husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Eph 5:25). God requires a level of love as intense as that which caused Jesus to be willing to give lay down His life for the church. In Eph 5:28-29, the Bible says: “husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.”

The Bible also warned the husbands: “do not be bitter toward them”. God knows that husbands may not always be satisfied with their wives and may on occasions be upset with them; so God warned the husbands: “watch out” – do not be bitter toward them! Don’t give your wife the look of bitterness or a scowling face of bitterness. Instead you are to love them. Some Christians appear to be “bitter” about their marriages to their wives. Brethren, such ought not to be the case.

3. “Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.” In Eph 6:1-4, the Bible says: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: 3 “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”

God is well pleased when children obey their parents in all things – not in some things only! God says that “this is right”.

Again to protect the children from abuse by their parents, God warned the fathers: “do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” and in Eph 6:4, Paul repeated the same warning: “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”

Do not mistreat your children whom God have entrusted into your hands to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. In bringing them up, God does not want parents to provoke their children. We should not bring up children by provocation! There is right way and a wrong way of bringing up our children – that’s what God said. The wrong way is when parents provoke them so that the children harbour deep anger and great discouragement. The question is: “do parents ever wonder whether they are causing their children to become intensely angry (i.e. wrath) and to become greatly discouraged with who they are and what they are capable of achieving?

This, however, does not mean that children can use the threat of their anger and discouragement to get their own ways. The Bible expects parents in bringing up their children to also discipline/chasten their children – and God offered Himself as an example:

”My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;  6 For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.” 7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

God does not capriciously discipline us. He gives us clear instruction and explanation as well as provides help and assistance for us. He is also patient and longsuffering with us so that we may repent in due course. However, when we are stiff-necked, stubborn and insistent in rebelling against His Will, then God will chasten or discipline us – and He tells us that we should not be discouraged during such occasions of discipline.

When the church at Corinth disciplined a member who had strayed from the truth, and he repented, the Bible said: “This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, 7 so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. 8 Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.”(2 Cor 2:6-8).

After disciplining a child, the parents should “forgive and comfort him so that the child would not be swallowed up with too much sorrow”. Do not abandon the child and turn your face away from him for any length of time lest he is overcome by much sorrow! Instead, following the disciplinary action, you are to comfort him and to “reaffirm your love for him”. Children need re-assurance from the parents of their love for them – especially when they have been disciplined.  I guess that this is an area where Asian parents may have a problem with – Asian parents tend not to be able to “re-affirm their love for their children” as they may feel that it is a sign of weakness to do so. The Bible says otherwise. Bringing up children as God intended it – and not as man devices in their own hearts. God’s way is always higher than our ways (Isa 55:8-9).

Parents, if we fail to follow God’s way of bringing up our children, we may end up with children who bring us dishonour, or who harbour deep resentment for us, or who are greatly discouraged with themselves or with being perceived as failures by their parents.

Some have chosen not to have children but let’s listen to what the Bible say about having children: “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD; The fruit of the womb is a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. 5 How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;” (Psa 127:3-5). Children are a blessing and gift from the Lord. Do not view them as a curse or a burden.

The importance of being able to manage our families well as God intended it is underlined by the qualification for eldership in 1 Tim 3:4-5: “one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5(for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?);”  Do we know HOW to rule our own house? If so, then we have a made a significant step towards being entrusted by God to take care of the church of God. Let’s resolve to be the family that God intends it – one that will bring great glory to Him.