Father! … to God Himself we cannot give a holier name. ~ William Wordsworth
Being a father is a high calling. There are two ways to measure the power of influence- one is by seeing it in action; the other is to see the effects of its absence. The absence of loving and present fathers is the greatest tragedy in America today. Love or fear, everything the father says to his children will inspire one or the other. The greatest gifts a father can give to his children is to pursue God with all his heart and love their mom more than life.
I am so grateful that these three call me “dad”- Emily, Travis, and Whitney.
God’s Design for the Family
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9
God’s Design for the Family (4 Snap Shots)
1. A Haven of Worship
In the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) God teaches us that we are to worship Him comprehensively- with all of life. He immediately follows these verses with clear instruction of how, when, and where this command is to be lived out, taught, and passed on from generation to generation. Clearly the weight of responsibility falls upon parents and it is within the context of the family that the Shema is lived out. Parents, you are the cultural architect of your home. You are to create an environment within the context of the home in order to worship God. Through the Shema God is teaching His people that worship is a 24-7 experience. We have so compartmentalized our lives that we somehow think worship is something that takes place on Sunday mornings and no other time. You never see that in the Bible! Teach your children about private worship- personal worship- worship as life. From a very early age teach your children to pray. Pray with your children. Ask, “What are you worried about? What are you really glad about? Let’s talk to God about that.” The home is to be a haven of worship.
2. A Refuge of Relationships
Notice, all of this is done together, in the context of life-giving relationships. I call it a “refuge” because the home should be the place where we’re loved for free. Moms, dads, and children are facing relational challenges all day long, often in a harsh and hostile world. We need to find a refuge of understanding and love in the home. Every spouse would do well to ask the question: “What’s it like being married to me?” Every parent should ask the question: “What is it like being my child?” What does my child hear from me? What do they see in me? My life is setting the pace for the kind of environment that is found in my home. By watching me what are my children learning about core values- such as honesty, generosity, perseverance, consistency, responsibility, forgiveness, prayer, and discipline? The home is a refuge for life-giving relationships.
3. A School of Instruction
Notice in Deuteronomy 6 the training and teaching taking place is done in the home. This is God’s design. The home is a seminary, a “seed bed” for theological instruction. When we transfer the responsibility of the spiritual nurturing of our children to the church, our kids become “spiritual orphans”. Our kids become spiritual schizophrenics, taught the Word of God at church but at home it’s rarely mentioned. Partner with the church. Be consistent in church attendance, but never abdicate the spiritual formation of your children off to someone else.
4. A Place of Grace
The home is to be a place where each member is loved with the unconditional and lavish love of God. The home is the place where forgiveness always prevails! You can let your guard down and be loved for free in the home. In the end, we see God’s dream to form a community of people, centered on His love. His dream to have a family that would love freely and be so radically inclusive that every person would be drawn in like a magnet to Him. He dreams of a place where people are embraced with all of their sin and failure and loved into a relationship with God through Christ and then set free into their God-given mission in the world. The home is to be like God’s Church. The Church is a family, filled brothers and sisters- of all nationalities, races, places in life- and God is our Father. Indeed the Church is the very family of God.
The Ten Traits of a Healthy Family
1. They have an irrational commitment to each member of the family. They display an illogical love for one another, spread lavishly and without discretion. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.” 1 John 3:1 Driven by 1 John 3:1, stunning amounts of love, kindness, and forgiveness are shared to family member.
2. They communicate with truth and grace. Mom and Dad model Ephesians 4:15. How we treat our spouse (and how we extend grace to our family members) will confirm or contradict what we believe about God.
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:15 Create an atmosphere where truth can be discussed, regardless of how difficult it may be to talk about.
3. They affirm the value and uniqueness of each member of the family. Each person is loved for free and without judgment. His or her opinions and feelings are always honored. “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:7 Celebrate the uniqueness of each child in our family. “I wouldn’t change a thing about you.”
4. They vow never to abuse, shame, control, or intimidate one another. “Oh, children are resilient- they bounce back.” No children are fragile and understanding that children are fragile- no emotional, verbal, or physical abuse is tolerated in any way and is immediately confronted. Consider the power of words.
“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Philippians 4:5 Unkind words are not tolerated- “We do not talk to each other like that in our family.” Parents: You must model kind words and challenge this early on.
5. They share a strong spiritual foundation. Parents recognize that a “mild
dose” of God will never cultivate a life that has Christ at the very center, guiding every aspect of life (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). There is no abdication of spiritual formation- no outsourcing to the church. We create spiritual orphans, spiritual schizophrenics. Complete disconnect! What’s your goal parents? There’s a big difference between a young person who goes to church & one who is truly sold out to God.
6. They teach respect for others. Racism, arrogant superiority, or disrespect
for people who are different is never tolerated. Jesus added to the Shema that we should love each other as we love ourselves: “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’.” Matthew 22:39 When you see a child who is different than other kids ask, “What would it feel like to be that kid?” Teach your children to love and honor all people- adopt Martin Luther King Jr.s’ dream for our nation. Help your children dream of the day when every person- Hispanic, black, Asian, European and all people will know that they are loved with the unprejudiced, unbiased, and unrestrained love of Jesus.
7. They instill a sense of responsibility in one another. Each member knows that they must take responsibility for their own actions and face the consequences of their poor choices. Self-esteem does not result from simply heaping large amounts of affirmation and praise. It happens when a child learns to be responsible.
“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.” 1 John 1:8-10
Let the consequences do the teaching. It’s God’s way- and parents too often get in the way of what God wants to do, simply through the consequences of choices made or not made. Parents: Do NOT rescue your child. This takes courageous parenting- it takes faith- to believe that God will work in your children’s life as He sees fit. When you let the consequences do the teaching you place that child in the hands of God.
8. They play together. This is so important. Laughter and fun mark a family that builds strong relationships with one another. “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22
9. They celebrate rituals and traditions together. This gives the family a sense of constancy and permanence. They know that the love and commitment of the family will never change- this year, next year, and the next… “Ask the former generations and find out what their fathers learned, for we were born only yesterday and know nothing, and our days on earth are but a shadow. Will they not instruct you and tell you? Will they not bring forth words from their understanding?” Job 8:8-10
10. They seek help when they come to an impasse. They understand that all families have issues that may need outside or professional help and they are not afraid to ask for help when needed. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:16
God is very clear about the kind of families He wants us to have. Let us follow His principles and seek to honor Him in our families.