If you are a Christian, you are concerned about this problem. Recent studies have listed many issues with which parents must cope today:
— finances (the cost of bearing, clothing, feeding, entertaining and educating children is the greatest in our history)
— working mothers (a majority of American mothers hold jobs out-side the home, many out of necessity)
– drugs, divorce, alcohol, crime, runaways, and abuse.
More than 1.5 million couples were divorced last year. Drugs and alcohol are on the rise among youngsters. The second leading cause of death between ages 14-24 is now suicide, and one child in eight can expect to appear in juvenile court before he turns 18.
It might be of comfort to realize that the world has always been a difficult place in which Christians must live. It has always been opposed to God’s values and God’s will.
Satan longs for the soul of any age person who will reject good, right, and truth and turn to his way of thinking. Christians must daily remind themselves of the clear, simple words of Jesus, from Matthew 7:13-14: “”Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
We might also be encouraged to remember a story recorded in 2 Chronicles 20, which shows a situation similar to the one we face today. Jehoshaphat had some men before him reporting the approach of a vast army, one the size of which his army could not defeat.
He inquired of the Lord his future and God’s answer is recorded for us in 2 Chronicles 20:15-17: “He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.'””
That message is an eternal one! It remains for Christians today who feel the odds against them in this sin-filled world.
Man’s domestic problems begin when he departs from God’s counsel regarding the home. And this study is vital because our understanding of Christ’s relationship to the church is dependent upon his conception of the home. God is interested in our homes because our spiritual understanding is at stake.
Home Means Different Things To Different People
There are many reasons why people look upon the home in different lights. In the first place, we have all had different backgrounds. Our home training has been varied, the emphases have been placed in many different spots as we have been reared through the years of childhood and adolescence.
It is no wonder that the word “home” means something different to one than to another:
- we may look upon the home as a place for protection where our simple needs are met
- it might be a place where we have been taught respect and obedience, where character and service have been taught
- young married couples view the home as the ideal situation, anticipating their life with optimism and ambition
- older people define home in terms of memories, and because of their mature minds, they certainly describe it with reality…it takes on a sense of reward and meaning
A truly Christian home is a place where sinners live; but it is also a place where the members of that home admit the fact and understand the problem, know what to do about it, and as a result grow by grace.
It is important that this environment be in place so all members of the family will have a loving, graceful, safe, and warm place in which to grow. It’s vital that we treat each other in the same way Jesus treated His 12 apostles.
As they stumbled and fell and made mistakes, he was patient with them because of one simple point: He knew they were not yet what they would become. We need to “be patient, God’s not finished with me yet!”
Strong Church Families– Case Examples (from actual minister from a large Southern congregation):
ITEM: A sixteen year old boy with this startling confession: “I can’t stand my parents. I hate my dad, I wish he was dead. “
ITEM: A seventeen year old youth With this pleading request: “Can I please talk with you. My parents won’t listen. My dad is an elder. He has time for everyone else, but he doesn’t have time for me. He thinks I don’t have anything worthwhile to say.”
ITEM: A nineteen year old coed on a Christian college campus asks for help. Her problem? For the past six years her father has been involved with her sexually. Her father is supposedly a leader in the Lord’s church.
ITEM: An adolescent, between the ages of 9 and 14, a resident in a children’s home in California, writes a night time prayer for sinners, wherein she prays: “I admit I am very sinful. I had a hard time with the family. Now I have no family. I was starved when I was little.”
ITEM: A college junior relays a sad message: “My parents have just informed me that I can never come home again. I am no longer their daughter. They never want to see me again.”
ITEM: On the afternoon prior to the concluding service of a gospel meeting that evening, a seventeen year old girl that has been attending the meeting, calls with this message and plea: “My mother has just kicked me out of the house. I have no place to go. I wish I were dead. In fact, about a year ago I tried to kill myself. I have been under psychiatric care. Can you help me?”
ITEM: An early morning emergency phone call, an urgent Saturday morning visit to the office and a desperate plea for help from a hurting and frustrated mother is a nearby congregation. Her problem? The night before she had discovered that her husband had been going to their daughter’s bed before coming to hers.
Each of these case examples have a least three major things in common.
- They are true . . . they actually happened.
- They each suggest some serious problems in the area of parent/child relationships in some homes.
- Are you ready for #3 . . . They each involve a supposedly Christian home or environment
They are not the strong families of which strong congregations are built. I am not plowing new ground when I tell you that today many homes and families, in the church and outside the church, are in serious trouble.
- No doubt, you know some.
- No doubt you have shed tears over some.
- No doubt, you will again.
Tragic things are happening in and to homes and families today.
- 53% of all marriages end in divorce.
- One-half of all children now live with one parent.
- 700,000 young people drop out of school annually.
- 5,000 to 6,000 young people commit suicide annually.
- 40% of all teenage girls become pregnant one or more times before reaching the age of 20.
- 52% or youth fatalities are alcohol related.
- Child abuse and abandonment are on the rise. In the past several years, there has been a 300% increase in placement of children outside the home.
- Homosexual marriages (men marrying men, women marrying women) then wanting to adopt and rear children in such an unscriptural and unwholesome environment.
- Abuses (sexual, physical, parental, etc.) running rampant through our society.
Let’s look in detail for a moment at three significant items that make all the difference in the world; (as they are discussed, think of the atmosphere or environment which these will create in the home):
- Christians admit their sins.
Because they know the Bible says that no Christian is ever perfect in this life, they are free to admit their sins.
1 John 1:8-10: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us, if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”
What does it mean to you to know that your boss, parents, etc., can admit when they make a mistake and acknowledge sin? What response do you give to this kind of person? What kind of response is given to the person who thinks they are perfect, who acts like they never do wrong?
Christians are able to acknowledge the fact and, in time, learn to anticipate and prepare for sin. Christians, of all persons, should never rely upon rationalizations, excuses or blame-shifting to try to euphemize their sins.
Because they can admit their sins, there can also be a certain amount of openness, honesty, and relaxation about the relationships that Christians sustain to one another, especially at home. Christians can pour their time and energies into the endeavor to replace sinful patterns with Biblical patterns of life.
Rather than wasting time minimizing or denying the fact of sin, Christians can concentrate on dealing with sin.
- Christians know what to do about their sins.
Because they have the Bible as the standard of faith and practice, Christians not only know why problems occur in the home, but they know what to do about them!
Is any sin too big for God? Can any sin be overcome in a loving, forgiving environment? We need to realize that each person in the Bible who stands before us a “great men and women of faith” are average people with sin in their life, which God helped remove.
- Christians progress out of their sins.
Where there is spiritual life, there also will be spiritual growth. No Christian may remain the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
A fundamental presupposition of the Christian faith is that there will be growth out of sin into righteousness. Where there is Bible study, prayer and the fellowship of the saints, the Spirit of God will be at work to produce His fruit.
The Christian home, then, is a place where sinful persons face the problems of a sinful world. Yet, they face them together with God and His resources, which are all centered in Christ. Sinners live in the Christian home, but the sinless Savior lives there too! “That is what makes the difference!
What purposes shall we try to achieve in our homes?
The first purpose is the personal development of each family member. This is not to say that one should view his home selfishly and think only in terms of what he can get out of it himself. Each family member experiences personal growth and receives a sense of genuine fulfillment by giving of himself in order to build a happy home.
The second purpose involves the accomplishment of certain social functions of the home. The primary social function is to provide a special companionship for each member of the family. To feel alone and unloved is one of the emptiest feelings on earth. But we must also prepare each member to be part of the larger group of society.
But the third purpose reaches into eternity: we must work toward achieving the spiritual development of the family members. We must never forget that marriage and the home is primarily a spiritual relationship.
We should daily be reminded of the question asked by Jesus in one of his most penetrating sermons, recorded for us in Matthew 16:26-27: “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.”
What qualities of character do we need to possess and demonstrate in our homes in order to fulfill these purposes?
Generally speaking, the development of Christian character is the single most important factor in achieving a successful home. The two marriage partners must desire success in their home, and genuine love is absolutely necessary! Each member of the family must take their differences into account and strive to communicate their feelings to each other.
This also relates to the church family
Paul Tournier once said there are two things one cannot do alone – be married and be a Christian.
The essence of being a Christian is not an extended set of correct doctrinal beliefs or even well-formed personal character. To be a Christian is to be connected to Christ in such a unique and special way that all other relationships are defined by that union. The perfect triune fellowship of God as Father, Son, and Spirit from eternity past has been opened to me by the blood of Jesus at Calvary. But I cannot experience their fellowship in isolation from all others who have been called into it.
Having others around is not a nuisance but a necessity for families. These interactions shape us. We sing and read, stand and bow, laugh and cry. And, yes, we certainly eat and drink together. But we do all these things as a network of friends. A gathering of family members. A church whose identity is not contained in itself but is found in the God who has formed it.
We are the community of the children of God! We carry his spiritual DNA. We bear his name. We have a great inheritance. Awareness of these things makes a difference in how we see ourselves and function in this world.
Perhaps if more of us saw ourselves as children of God rather than members of the church, we would claim a nobler inheritance. If we understood church as persons in relationship rather than names on the roll, we would function differently as the church. If we saw sin as the breaking of relationships rather than the breaking of rules, we would both live better and deal with one another more gracefully.
If we really love God the Father, we will create churches that are communities of love, accountability, and nurture where gradual spiritual transformation takes place over time. We will live gently with one another. Listen to one another’s stories. Teach and learn from one another.
A PRAYER FOR THE CHILDREN
We pray for the children who …… sneak popsicles before supper… erase holes in their math workbooks and can never find their shoes.
We pray for the children who …… don’t know how to run down the street in a new pair of sneakers… are born in places where we wouldn’t be caught dead… and, have never been to the circus.
We pray for the children who …… bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions… hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money.
We pray for the children who …… never get dessert or have a “safe” blanket to drag behind them… watch their parents watch them die… can’t find bread to steal… don’t have any rooms to clean up… don’t have pictures on anybody’s dresser and… whose monsters are real.
We pray for the children who …… spend all their allowance before Tuesday… throw tantrums in the store and pick at their food… like ghost stories and shove dirty clothes under the bed… never rinse out the tub and get visits from the tooth fairy, and… whose tears we sometimes laugh at and smiles can make us cry.
We pray for the children who …… whose nightmares come in the daytime… will eat anything and have never seen a dentist… aren’t spoiled by anybody, and… go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep.
We pray for the children who …… want to be carried and for those who must, and… we never give up on and for those who don’t get a second chance.
We pray for the children who …… we smother with love and affection and… will grab the hand of anybody kind enough to offer it.