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Successful Families - God's Family Portrait

When you and your family sit for a photograph, you hardly ever seem to come out looking like the ideal family in the finished print. There are always flaws. Dad's tie doesn't match his suit. The gap in Junior's teeth stands out. Mom has her eyes closed. The baby was just starting to cry. That's just the way families are. We fail to measure up to the ideal in many ways.

But God has given us a picture of His ideal family, one that goes far beyond outward appearances, and even reflects His special relationship to His people. The human family even serves as a picture of God Himself. So it's important to look at your family from God's perspective to discover the best He has in mind for you.

The Family: The Image of God

A family begins with a man and a woman, each created in God's image (Genesis 1:27). This means that, spiritually, God must have both male and female characteristics. For example, God has fatherly characteristics. He gives us good gifts, as an earthly father would (Luke 11:11-13). He also has motherly characteristics. He comforts us as a mother comforts her child (Isaiah 66:13).

Therefore, the union of a man and woman in marriage forms a complete picture, so to speak, of the nature of God.

But a family consists of more than just a mother and father. There are children, too.

God's first commandment to Adam and Eve was "Be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28). Man was to share in the creative act of bringing children into the world. So the family also becomes a creative unit after the likeness of our Creator, God.

The family, in other words, is there to show people what our heavenly family will be like. It should be a shadow of things to come. A family is an example to believers and unbelievers alike of the love and acceptance we have from God.

To prove this to yourself, look at how often the Bible compares our relationship to God and to each other in the Body of Christ with a family. The Bible says that when we ask Jesus to come into our lives we become a part of the family of God and can call God our Father: "Abba! Father!"

(Romans 8:15). "Abba" is basically a term of endearment. It's like calling God "Daddy."

In addition, Jesus referred to Himself as our brother. He said that anyone who does His Father's will is His brother and sister and mother (Matthew 12:48-50). Furthermore, Scripture says that as children of God we become intimately related to one another (Romans 8:16) and that fellow Christians become our brothers and sisters.

A family means love

A family should be a place where you can go, no matter what you've done wrong, and still be loved. The prodigal son left his home, squandering all his riches. Yet, when everyone else had turned away from him, his father still welcomed him home with open, loving arms (Luke 15:11-24). This is an example of the "everlasting love" of God (Jeremiah 31:3) shown in Jesus' death for us "while we were yet sinners" (Romans 5:8).

But love means more than acceptance. More than affection. It means discipline. The book of Hebrews tells us that God chastens, or disciplines, those He loves (Hebrews 12:6). In the same way, Proverbs says that if we don't punish our children when they do wrong, what we're really telling them is that we hate them (Proverbs 13:24). So love often means "tough love."

Love is something that needs to be expressed verbally. God often tells us in His Word that He loves us. "God so loved the world" (John 3:16) and "he first loved us"(1 John 4:19). In the same way, we need to tell the members of our family that we love them. Don't assume they know. If God didn't tell us He loved us, we wouldn't know.

But words alone are not enough. God demonstrated His love by Christ's dying on the cross for us. To really show our families that we love them we need to die to our own selfish desires and put them before ourselves-as Jesus put us before Himself on the cross.

God's love in us is always giving (1Corinthians 13). It prefers the other over self. It is the only ingredient that unites the family as a team. It is through this team effort that family problems are resolved and family unity becomes a reality.

Enduring love

Remember what it was like when you first fell in love? Gazing endlessly into one another's eyes. Holding hands under the stars. But often the romance gets lost as married bliss becomes a monotonous repetition of the humdrum of daily existence. And looking back, you can't help but wonder, "Is this what love and families are all about?"

Perhaps it's a beginning. But our commitment, not the "butterflies,": makes love endure. The world likes to tell you that the wonderful feelings are most important. The media constantly bombards us with the lie that sex is the highest expression of love. Love songs talk only of broken hearts and disappointed love, never of faithfulness and endurance under trial.

God talks of commitment. The song that Solomon wrote, which you find in the Bible, speaks of a love that was fulfilling and enduring, not because problems didn't enter in to try to steal love away, but because a commitment had been made to make love work (Song of Solomon).

In today's world, we are besieged with all kinds of pressures that can produce family conflicts. The world encourages divorce and separation rather than resolution of conflict. Satan is working harder than ever to destroy our families through these conflicts. But God promises us that we can "submit therefore to God, resist the Devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). God requires that we exercise our authority over the enemy and be committed to the permanence of marriage and family (1 Corinthians 7:11). It is only through our commitment to God and one another that we can be overcomers.

Loving one another through Jesus and applying His Word in our lives will resolve the conflicts that our families face. It is not our responsibility to change others; that belongs to God. However, it is our responsibility to fulfill our Christlike role as a spouse, parent, or child and be personally committed to doing our part in the family.

Husbands, love your wives (Ephesians 5:25)

The family unit begins when "a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave to his wife" (Genesis 2:24). This is a show of the man's commitment to his wife. Thus they become one flesh. How two people become one is a great mystery in life. And this mysterious union reflects the relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5;32). When we are born again, we somehow inexplicably become one with Christ. And marriage helps us understand this mystical oneness. So when husbands are told to love their wives, they are told to do so in the same way that Jesus loves the church. Jesus loved us by giving His life for us (Ephesians 5:25). In the same way, the husband serves his wife by giving his life for her. This doesn't mean he becomes her servant, jumping at her every beck and call. Rather, he serves her by loving her - encouraging her to become the best woman of God she can be. He loves her more than himself. He admires her talents and abilities and "praises her" (Proverbs 31:28). Not only does he tell her what a treasure she is, he tells other people what a wonderful wife he has. This creates an atmosphere of mutual respect. And what woman can resist a man who truly loves and cherishes her?

Love encourages submission

"Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:3).

Note first in this scripture that the head of Christ is God. Jesus, while on this earth, willingly submitted to the Father. He said that he didn't come to earth to do His own will, but rather the will of His Father (John 6:38). Now, Jesus was free to do whatever He wanted to. After all, He was equal with God. But the Bible says although Jesus "existed in the form of God, (He) did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped" (Philippians 2:6). Jesus, therefore, chose to become a servant to man. He didn't have to. He wanted to. In turn, because Jesus willingly humbled Himself, God has highly exalted Him (Philippians 2:8-9)!

Jesus' authority came as a result of His submission to the Father (John 17:2). In the same manner, a husband's authority comes from his submission to his head, which is Christ.

The husband-wife relationship is compared in Scripture to the Father-Son relationship. "The man is the head of a woman and God is the head of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:3). We know that Jesus and God the Father are equal. But the woman, like Christ, willingly submits herself to the husband, not because she is forced to, but because she chooses to, recognizing this is God's will for her life (Ephesians 5:22). Her heart attitude is totally yielded to her husband as to God. She defers to her husband because she loves and respects him. In turn, he lifts her up. The key is love.

What about the children?

The relationship between the husband and wife sets the stage for how children will behave in a family. If the mother shows respect for her husband, the children will respect their father. If the husband reverences his wife, the children will honor their mother.

Example is a great teacher. And teacher is the role that God gave us with our children. "And you shall teach them (the words of God) diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you lie down and when you rise up" (Deuteronomy 6:7).

Today, books on child rearing emphasize spending quality time with your children. But this scripture from Deuteronomy makes it clear that you should spend not only quality time, but also quantity time. When you are sitting, when you are walking, at bedtime and in the morning, you are to tell your children about God. The main responsibility for this teaching falls on the father, with the mother at his side. In his role as spiritual head, the father is responsible to implement family devotions, Bible study, and prayer. Further, his life should reflect the principles of the Word.

The Bible says that children are a blessing from the Lord, that the man who has a lot of children is a happy man (Psalm 127:5). A father once said that he could think of nothing that would make him happier than to be surrounded by his family. This is a wonderful testimony to the beauty of a happy home. And it also points us to our heavenly Father's desire for us, His children; for the day is coming when we'll all gather around our Father's throne, and He'll be surrounded by His family.

Get the picture?

Now you see how the family is a sketch of what is in store for us in heaven. It is a place where you can discover the image of God. It is a place of refuge and comfort. Home is where you can find love and acceptance and forgiveness. And it is the place where, as a Christian, you can illustrate the Father's love for His children.

Making your home a haven of joy

To make your family more like God's family, take a long look at what is preventing you from having this ideal relationship. For many families, there's just an ingrained pattern of non-communication when schedules differ and watching television absorbs the little time they might have together. But you can turn off the television and maybe shift schedules to make sure you all eat supper together. Play games, read aloud, bicycle, play sports, do something that knits you together.

Pray together. Share your thoughts and feelings about God and what He's doing in you lives. Read and meditate on God's Word, applying its principles to your family life. Most important, whatever God shows you about your need to change your attitudes and habits, promise each other you'll make those changes.

For serious problems - alienation, behavior problems in your children, and the like, seek out a Christian counselor or minister who counsels family problems and resolve together to work on the problem. And whatever stands in the way, do not let it deprive you of the closest fellowship you can realize this side of heaven, the haven of your family.

Let's Pray

"Father, we ask forgiveness for not being the family that You have wanted us to be. Please give us the wisdom and the insight to make our house a home. Help us as a husband and wife and as parents to fulfill our godly responsibilities, to teach our children right from wrong and to lift up the name of Jesus. We commit each family member to You now, and ask for Your blessing to rest on our home. Guide us and keep us. May our family always glorify You. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen."

Scripture references are taken form the New American Standard translation of the Bible.

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