Foundations for Family Life

What are the foundations for a good family life? Here are five lessons from the experience of the first family – you can read their story in Genesis chapters three and four.

1 Learn to Speak the Truth in Love and Faith

  • This is the point at which the first family went wrong. Instead of living according to the truth, they began to live according to a lie. Here are some questions for your family about living in the truth:-
  • Do you use threats that you don’t mean? “If you don’t behave, I’ll tell the driver to stop and we’ll go straight home!” – so said the harassed mum to her lively son on the school outing. This and her even more wild threats did not affect the boy’s behaviour in the slightest. Untrue threats lead children to accept lying as a normal way of relating to others – and it makes it difficult for them when it comes to the need to respond to a true warning.
  • Do you try to hide death and other difficult issues? Lying is not the only way to stop living in the truth – so is keeping quiet about what is happening. The effects of ‘shielding’ a child from the fact of the death of a relative until some time after the funeral can take years to identify, unravel and overcome. Children have an amazing God-given ability to cope with hardships and bereavement when they are faced in the context of love and truth. Even very young children can sense when something is disturbing the peace within the family – it does not protect them to withhold an explanation from them – rather it opens them to an insecurity which is far more difficult for them than the truth of what is happening. The truth about hardships should be shared with children in a way that does not burden them unnecessarily. They need to be given the information that will help them to cope at their level with what is going on, and to be at peace – or at least to be on the way to peace.
  • Do you have ‘rose-tinted’ spectacles? The supermarket manager catches the boy stealing sweets and gives him a good telling-off (remembering that this happening to him when he was a boy stopped him ever doing it again!). Ten minutes later the boy is back with furious mum in tow – “How dare you accuse my boy of stealing? He wouldn’t do a thing like that!” The mum’s dishonesty was much worse than the boy’s! You know the things that you have done in the past – so you know what your children might get up to! It does no good to cover up the truth about their bad behaviour – nor does it do any good to overemphasise its seriousness. If you have to deal with them for lying, do you tell them about the time when you were caught doing the same thing? Sticking up for your children is demonstrated far better by disciplining them to live in the truth rather than by refusing to face it when they are in the wrong.

2 Learn to Say Sorry

  • When faced with the wrong they had done, Adam and Eve both tried to pass the blame on to someone else (Genesis 3:11-13).
  • Parents need to learn to say sorry to each other. This can be quite a challenge if saying sorry has not been a habit in the families they come from.
  • Parents need to learn to say sorry to their children. Children will usually readily forgive if they are given the opportunity – but they can suffer deep long-term damage by wrongs done to them that have not been resolved. Children are not going to learn to say sorry if no one else is doing it.
  • Children need to learn to say sorry to their parents. Not because their parents ‘need’ it – but to help them to mature by taking responsibility for their actions, and to lead them in the right way of resolving conflict.
  • Children need to learn to say sorry to each other. This is so that wrongs can be dealt with properly, and forgiveness can be learned and practised.
  • It is good to teach saying sorry as the way of mending broken relationships – but is unwise to insist on it. We need to understand that some will find it easy to say sorry without being sorry, while others who really are sorry may find it difficult to express in words. It’s healthy to keep a sense of proportion concerning the seriousness or otherwise of the offence – and to keep in mind that when we forgive someone, it is not because they have said sorry, but because we love them.

3 Learn to Live for Jesus’ Kingdom

  • The first family were given a special place in God’s Kingdom (Genesis 1:26-28 & 2:15). They were to be God’s answer to the devil – demonstrating the loving purpose of God in the world. They gave that all up for the temporary enjoyment of the forbidden fruit and found themselves in an eat, work, sleep, eat, work, sleep routine which was far short of what was intended for them (Genesis 3:17-19).
  • Why do you live where you live? Is it for Jesus’ Kingdom?
  • Why do you do the work you do, or spend your time the way you do? Is it for Jesus’ Kingdom?
  • Even though those things may not be entirely of your choice, have you found their purpose for Jesus’ Kingdom?
  • What a difference it makes for a family to be enjoying together the exciting adventure of living for Jesus’ Kingdom! This does not mean abandoning ‘awkward’ members of the family who are not living for Jesus! In fact, living for His Kingdom means having very special responsibility towards such people.
  • And in thinking what you want for your children are you looking for their success in the world or in their service for Jesus?

4 Learn to Honour and Respect Each Other

  • Here is another area where the first family went wrong! Cain had a problem concerning his brother Abel – and ended up killing him. The root of the lack of honour and respect was not something that was wrong in Abel – but something that was wrong in Cain’s heart. Cain thought that he had a problem with his brother when really he had a problem with himself.
  • Lack of honour and respect within a family can ‘kill’ or cripple the potential of those who suffer it. It is not good when parents speak negatively of each other to their children or to others. Neither is it good when children are talked about in a way that belittles them and leaves them feeling that they have no place of value.
  • Our ability to honour others in our family is not dependent on their behaviour or temperament but on our own sense of personal worth and security. If we have ‘problems’ with someone in our family we may well have to look at what needs sorting out in us rather than what needs sorting out in them.

5 Learn to Let God Fill up Your Family

  • The first family had suffered a great loss in the death of Abel – but God did something about it. Seth was born, and Eve said, “God has given me a son to replace Abel, whom Cain killed.” This is a lovely example of the fact that God has an answer for all that the devil has stolen away.
  • Every family knows something of loss and damage, hurt and suffering, and the failure to be all that a family is meant to be; but here is our hope – God is in the business of redeeming family life and filling all the empty places made by sin, Satan and the circumstances of life.
  • God has some sort of ‘Seth’ for every loss in family life (not necessarily another baby!!). It may be helpful to identify the area of loss your family has suffered – and ask Jesus to fill that area with his Holy Spirit provision, so that whatever the past, your family can now grow together in the goodness and purpose of your Father.

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