In the previous Q&A, we reviewed some Scriptures that show how we are to deal with others in our relationship with them. In this Q&A, we are going to look at relationships within the conventional family.
Relationships within the human family.
Family is a place where strong relationships are built and provides a sense of meaning and belonging, although it has been undermined and demeaned in recent years by those who have an agenda to eliminate the family as we know it.
In our booklet “The Keys to Happy Families and Marriages!,” we read the following on page 18 under the heading of “The Christian Family”:
“As the Bible gives clear instructions as to the individual roles and functions of husbands and wives, it also explains the duties and responsibilities of fathers and mothers toward their children, and of the children toward their parents.
“As we have far too many marriage problems, we also have FAR too many family problems. Too often, parents know little about proper parenting, and rebellious children are the result. Children who are victims of divorce are expected to be resilient when someone they love suddenly disappears from their life. More often than not, they grow up with multiple mothers, fathers, and grandparents due to remarriage, and yet are left to fend for themselves too much of the time, because no one has time for them.
“We read, in fact, a startling and sobering prophecy in the Bible for the very last days—just prior to the return of Christ—that addresses the tragic reality of broken families. Sadly, this situation HAS also affected the attitudes of true Christians, and God says that unless these conditions change, something terrible will happen to this planet.”
We also have a Q&A entitled “What is a Family?” and this can be found in that Q&A, we address what constitutes a family in the eyes of God, and what does not “qualify” as a family according to the Bible.
In this Q&A, we focus on the relationships that there must be to help the God-ordained family flourish as a group.
There are relationships between husband and wife and between children and parents.
Relationship between husband and wife.
We read in Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” This is repeated in Ephesians 5:31: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
As Marvin J Martin wrote: “God has designed separate, but related, roles for men and women in much of life, including our marriages. We need to accept the roles God has given to us and learn to complete, not compete with our spouses. Honestly helping one another to succeed in our biblical roles as husbands and wives can help build successful, enjoyable, fruitful marriages.”
In Ephesians 5, we see instructions given to both husband and wife. The instructions to the husband are:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 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” (verses 25-29).
In Ephesians 5, the instructions to the wife are:
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything” (verses 22-24).
In verse 33 there is an instruction to both husband and wife: “Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
In 1 Peter 3:1-6 we read:
“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.”
One problem many husbands have is to really love their wives, and one problem many wives have is to submit to their husbands in the right way. Colossians 3:18 and Ephesians 5:22 give an important addition. We state in our booklet:
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” Note the fact that it would not be fitting or pleasing to the Lord, if the husband gave unreasonable orders; if he acted selfishly; or if he ceased to love his wife. Although the command to be submissive is directed to the wife, it presupposes that the husband himself submits to God first and that he does not require of his wife things that are ungodly. For instance, if a husband asks his wife to lie, the wife is not to do that. God’s commands always come first. We have to obey God rather than man (cp. Acts 5:29). Wives must not sin in ‘submitting’ to their husbands. They must not violate their biblically-based conscience (cp. Romans 14:23). The application of that principle can sometimes be difficult and may require individual advice from one of God’s ministers.
It is very important to handle any such conflict with love and respect for the mate, rather than with an arrogant, self-righteous attitude.
“Notice Ephesians 5:22, ‘Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord…’ Note again that we do not submit to God if we break His commandments. Likewise, wives are not to submit to their husbands if doing so would mean breaking one of God’s commandments in the letter or in the spirit.”
It will be easier for a woman to submit to her husband when he is a loving and kind man and deeply concerned about the welfare of his wife. Continuing with quoting from our booklet:
“It is true that 1 Peter 3:1–6 requires of the wives to be submissive to husbands who are not obedient to the word of God. Notice, though, the wording and the advice: ‘(verse 1) 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, (verse 2) when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear…’
“This is not talking about fear or torment because of the husband, but rather that women should live in the fear of God. Notice Proverbs 31:30, ‘But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.’ We… read in Ephesians 5:21 that we are to submit to one another ‘in the fear of God.’ Peter is not saying here that wives need to live in fear and torment of their disobedient husbands, but rather that they need to submit to their husbands in the fear of God. Again, they would not obey their husbands if the husbands require of the wives to do something that would be contrary to the word of God.”
The Headline to 1 Peter 3, verse 7, in the New King James Bible is “A Word to Husbands.” The Scripture itself reads:
“Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.”
In our booklet, mentioned before, we say about this passage:
“Husbands need to understand their wives. If a husband doesn’t understand his wife, he needs to ask her, what she would like to do—what her dreams are, her preferences, and her dislikes. A husband needs to spend a lot of time communicating with his wife, as with his closest friend. He needs to respect her—to show her honor, to praise her for what she does. A husband must never put her down before others. Nothing hurts a woman more than being shown disrespect by her husband, especially in front of others. All husbands have done that at times. All husbands must repent of such disrespect.
“The husband’s guidance must be given with love and honor and respect for his wife. And, what is the purpose for such guidance? Is it so that HE can be regarded by others as the ‘RULER’ of the household? So that HE can glory in front of others in the fact that he is ‘obeying God’s commandments’ and his wife is obeying him? Far from it! That’s the kind of vain glory that we must not have!
“The reason why the husband is to give loving guidance to his wife is that God ordained that the husband and wife are one flesh—they are one entity, spiritually. Their Christian goal is to enter the kingdom of God together—to become inheritors of eternal life together, of which they are already heirs. So, the husband is to act out of true Godly love for his wife, and his wife, knowing that this is the reason why he acts the way he does, will be much more willing to overlook the shortcomings of her husband. If her husband shows that his love for her is so great that he is willing to lay down his life for her, on a continuing, life-long basis, and that he is concerned for her—spiritually and physically—then what Christian woman would not willingly respond to the leadership of her husband?
“On the other hand, when the marriage is on the rocks, then even our individual and personal relationship with God is impaired. That’s why Peter says to husbands to ‘dwell with your wives with understanding, give them honor and respect, so that your prayers may not be hindered’ (1 Peter 3:7). Peter places the responsibility on the shoulders of the husband to see to it that the prayers of husbands and wives are not hindered.”
Especially Colossians 3:19 is worth mentioning in this context, saying, “Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.”
We state in our booklet:
“We are told that we need to give up all bitterness. All of us have to do that. Bitterness is like cancer. It will eat us up internally, until our light within us has become darkness. If we love another person, we cannot really be bitter toward that person. If there is still bitterness in our hearts toward another person, and especially, if a husband has bitterness toward his wife, then one has not come to the perfect love that is required of us. Notice Ephesians 4:31–32, ‘Let all bitterness… be put away from you… And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as Christ forgave you.’
“Are husbands kind and tenderhearted toward their wives? Are they willing to forgive them? Or do husbands feel offended, and do they feed on that offense? Will they allow bitterness to creep into their hearts? If husbands do that, then they are walking on dangerous ground and unless quickly overcome and removed, that bitterness will quench their love for their wives. And then, it is the husbands who are in violation of God’s commandments not to be bitter towards their wives, and to love them as themselves.
“Notice the kind of love that God requires of the husbands toward their wives. ‘Love does no harm to a neighbor’ (Romans 13:10). If husbands really love their wives, they will not hurt them physically nor emotionally—they will not harshly ‘lord it over them.’”
Where there is not a close personal relationship between spouses, problems will inevitably occur. In fact, even with a close personal relationship, misunderstandings and mistakes can take their toll on a perfectly good relationship, so how many more problems may arise where the relationship is less than ideal. The Scriptures quoted above are God’s instructions for a good and right relationship to exist in a marriage.
The relationships within such a family will be pleasing to God as they will foster peace, harmony and personal growth for them all.
Children in the Family
In addition, children are told in the Fifth Commandment to “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12) and this admonition is repeated in Deuteronomy 5:16 (also compare Ephesians 6:1-3). This is, again, further counsel and guidance to produce fruitful and harmonious relationships within the family.
The responsibility of parents is related in Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” From birth, parents have control over what their children do and how they behave. As the years go by, that family direction diminishes as children make their own decisions. However, if this sound foundation is followed, that influence will still be there to one degree or another throughout their lives for their own benefit. We are the product of our environment, and a good and effective relationship forged through years of close interaction will yield many good benefits.
We say this in our booklet, cited before:
“Children learn by what they see. We teach by our actions, as well as by our words. We are not teaching or properly training if our actions do not match our words. We don’t teach Godly principles either, if our words and actions don’t correspond with God’s commandments. So, if we teach our children by our words or by our actions that it is sometimes justified to lie, to steal, to kill, to commit adultery, or to use God’s name in vain, then we are not teaching our children God’s word—we are not bringing them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”
The book of Proverbs is a powerhouse of wise counsel: “A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke” (Proverbs 13:1); and “Listen to your father who begot you, And do not despise your mother when she is old” (Proverbs 23:22).
We read in Colossians 3:20: “Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.” When this vital relationship is ignored by parents and children, the results can be dire: “The rod and rebuke give wisdom, But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15).
However, we also state this in our booklet:
“As children, we are to obey our parents in the Lord. This means, we are not to obey them if it would not be in the Lord—that is, if it would be in contradiction to God’s commandments—either from a literal or a spiritual standpoint. Once a child is old enough to understand God’s way of life, he or she must follow God…. It is never well-pleasing to God if we disobey Him. We discussed that wives cannot disobey God by obeying their husbands. In the same way, children must not obey their parents either, if this would violate God’s Law. They are not to lie or to steal or to kill or any such thing in ‘obedience’ to their parents’ ‘orders.’”
Good parenting also includes not provoking our children to wrath (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21).
Good family relationships are vital because they are a pattern for how we live and relate as present or future begotten members within the Family of God at this time and for eternity in the Kingdom of God.
God knew that, over the years, we would have many good and bad times in our family relationships, and He gives help and direction in His Word for those situations that arise.
The love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, shows how love behaves: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). If our relationships, both in the family and with others, are according to the above approach, they will be successful, enjoyable, long-lasting and pleasing in God’s sight.
And finally, in this section, 1 Timothy 5:8 states: “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.” When someone is lazy and slothful, being not easily aroused to action or work, relationships can be easily affected and probably strained, at the lack of provision for others by such inaction. This is a situation that must not exist in our families.
(To be continued)
Lead Writers: Brian Gale (United Kingdom) and Norbert Link