I’m no expert on parenting.
So it’s a good thing this post isn’t about parenting.
Rather, I want to address the question, “What makes a Christian family different from another family?”
The primary distinctive of a Christian family (this may be any combination of husband, wife, children, siblings…) is that we’re all working toward clearly expressed shared goals. In theory, before we get to career goals, academic goals, or financial goals, we all share the goal of loving God and living for Him. We all share the goal of giving the Holy Spirit full rein in our lives.
GOAL 1: Make God’s Love a Priority
Christian families have a goal of incorporating God’s love into their family life. 1 John 4 (starting with v7) has a long description of God’s love. In fact, v16 states succinctly that “God is love.” So are we a loving family? Not just between ourselves, but do we encourage each other to love our neighbours? Do we encourage each other to love our enemies? Do we encourage each other to meet our neighbours? Not just because it’s polite, but because we’re all working to be like God.
A Christian family understands that love is more than just a feeling: it’s a decision and a commitment. One of Jesus’ most radical teachings is found in Luke 6 where he tells us to “love our enemies”. I suspect that when we read this we most often think of the Russians, or the Democrats, or the Muslims, or the Republicans… But sometimes the person who hates us, curses us, or mistreats us is closer to home. Sometimes they’re in our home. Because sometimes when we live in close proximity to each other, things are said and done that hurt.
But a family with God at its centre will continue to love and want what’s best for each other. It will work to restore an environment of security and intimacy.
GOAL 2: Pass on Your Faith
In Ephesians 6:4 the apostle Paul gives this direction to parents. He says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
According to Paul, there’s a balance between guiding children into a relationship with God, and turning them away from God because we shove our faith down their throats. If you’re a parent you could go to Barnes and Noble right now and probably buy 15 different books of parenting tactics sure to raise a happier & healthier child. So I’m not going to tell us specific techniques. Rather, Scripture gives us goals, and whatever approaches we choose, we need to walk this path between exasperation and ambivalence.
I recently came across an article titled “40 Lessons We Sought To Teach Our Children”. It’s a list compiled by Dennis and Barbara Rainey who head up a major marriage and family ministry named Family Life. Now 40 is a lot of lessons, but I love the intentionality.
- Most families want their kids to be polite. But Christian families want their children to love their neighbours.
- Most families want to manage their money well. Christian families want to use our money to bring glory to God.
- Most families want their kids to do well in school. Christian families also want their kids to learn about God, and to know God.
- Most families reward good grades in school. Christian families also recognize biblical literacy as important.
- Most families recognize the value of spending time together. Godly families recognize the value of spending time together with God.
Where is God in Your Family? I know families that go on mission trips together rather than vacations. They still spend time together, but they get to live out their faith in tangible ways at the same time. Maybe that’s not feasible, but are there other opportunities to serve others together as a family?
There are so many virtues listed throughout Scripture it can appear overwhelming. There’s the Fruit of the Spirit, The 10 Commandments. The Beatitudes, Spiritual Armour. And they’re just the lists… I suggest you start with one. What’s one Godly attribute your family needs to work on? Write it down, stick it on the fridge, and discuss ways you can grow in that area. You can do this if you have kids, if it’s just you and your spouse, or if you live alone. Pick one, and start there.
It’s my prayer that if we’re asked, “Where’s God in My Family?” that it’s a simple question to answer. Not one that requires us to go scrounging through trashcans looking for evidence.
(Click HERE for some resources to incorporate kindness into your family life.)