FAITH IN FAMILIES: A PLACE CALLED HOME Christopher Harrison
Scriptures: Genesis 2: 18-25 and Matthew 12: 46-50
Aim: To motivate for a Biblical redefinition of families in present realities.
Illustration: In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy clicks the heels of her magic ruby slippers and repeats: “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” In this series we will offer Biblical teaching that strengthens the home and family relationships.
What is ‘Home’ to you? For me it is where I can be myself, put my feet on the coffee table and open the fridge and eat anything I want to from it! It is a place of safely and security. It is where I am loved and I can learn to love more deeply. It is the place I create where God is to be central. I love working on my home, fixing things, painting and making it our place. My favourite hobby is pottering around the home and doing thing. What is your picture of the family? Bart Simpson, My Family, The Cosby Show, or Egoli?
1. WE ALL WANT ‘NORMAL’ HOME LIVES
In recent history families have come under attack, and many are struggling, but this is not a new phenomenon. After WW2 the governments needed to get the soldiers back into the economy, where now the women had taken over while they were at war. The picture was cast of a working man as the breadwinner and the ‘stay at home wife and mother’ of the two children, a boy and a girl, would be the home maker. This is set in our minds as ‘normal’.
Illustration: In the movie ‘As good as it gets’, Helen Hunt acts as the waitress who is wracked by ambivalence towards Jack Nicholson, who is generous towards her and her son, but is agoraphobic, obsessive compulsive, and terminally offensive. She cries out to her mother: “I just want a normal boyfriend.” To which her mother says: “Everybody wants one of them. There’s no such thing dear.” So there are no normal families right now either.
What is the Biblical model of family? So we look to the Bible. Surely there are ‘normal families’ there. What is the Biblical picture? From the outset God created the family as a unit made up of many different styles and natures. We find ourselves in that place again. The Bible is so honest about life and people, trying not to hide anything about the human condition. Ever seen the messed-up families there are in Genesis alone?: Cain is jealous and so kills his brother Abel. Lamech introduces polygamy into the world. Noah – the most righteous man in the world at the time – gets drunk then curses his own grandson. Lot, when his home is surrounded by residents of Sodom who want to violate his visitors, offers instead that they can have sex with his daughters. Later on, his daughters get him drunk and get impregnated by him - and Lot is the most righteous man in Sodom! Abraham plays favourites between his sons Isaac and Ishmael, one from his wife and one from his concubine, and the boys are estranged. Isaac plays favourites between Jacob and Esau; they become biter enemies for 20 years. Jacob plays favourites between Joseph and his 11 other sons; the brothers want to kill Joseph and end up selling him into slavery. And this is nothing on the marriages that we could list too! These people needed a therapist!
Many families are made up of a number of generation, some have adopted children, to step-children, or blended families where there have been a number of marriages at various times. Some are forced to be together through AIDs deaths, among others. There is no stereotype here. Every family seems normal, until you get to know them. God is the original family, as the three in one. We are created into that family to have union with him and each other. I attempt a definition of the family: “A mini community of people whom God has brought together within the wider community of God, who share an extraordinary commitment to each other for the benefit of each other.”
2. WE ALL NEED A FAMILY AND A HOME
Sometimes we feel like porcupines. We long to belong and be loved, but we have 30 000 quills sticking out! We seek real community and some people experience community that God desires for us in families. It has been proven that we all need a family however it is defined Why?:
- It is foundational to society: According to Nick Stinnett, there is a pattern in the rise and fall of great societies such as ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt. When these societies were at their peek of their power and prosperity, the family became strong and highly valued. When family life became weak in these societies, when the family was not valued, when society became extremely individualistic, the society began to deteriorate and eventually fell.
- It creates a place where we discover who we really are: When we are loved unconditionally we can grow to become loving people. When allowed space to develop, we are able to know our identity and grow into our potential.
- It shapes our values: Our moral characters are shaped by those closest to us. The family histories of Max Jukes and Jonathan Edwards provide a startling illustration of a contrast. Max lives in New York, did not believe in Christian training and married a girl of like character. From one union 1 026 descendents have been studied: 300 of them died prematurely; 100 were sent to jail for an average of 13 years each; 190 became prostitutes, and 100 were drunkards. On today’s economic scale the family cost the state over $6million, and made no positive contribution to society. On the other side is Jonathan, who believed in Christian training and married a lady of like mind. From that union 729 descendents have been studied. 300 became preachers of the gospel; 65 became college professors, 13 University presidents, 60 authors of good books, 3 USA Congressmen, and one vice-president of the USA. It is impossible to calculate the contribution they made to the economy and the country as a whole. It is not too late to set I place God’s values for your future generations.
- It determines how we cope: In a survey done on stress, it is noted that 50% of life’s stresses directly relate to the family. What happens in the family affects us. Note these: 1. Death of partner: 100 points, 2. Divorce: 73; 3. Marital separation: 65; 4. Jail term (including separation) 63; 5. Death of close family member: 63; 6. Personal illness or injury (relationally related): 53; 7. Marriage 50; 8. Job Firing: 47; 9. Marital reconciliation: 45; 10. Retirement: 45. The conclusion is: Show me a person who enjoys a dynamic family life and I will show you a basically happy person. But without family fulfilment nothing else in life seems to come together.
3. WE ALL CAN BUILD A PLACE CALLED HOME?
Modern writers and psychologists say that a family that works is just dumb luck. It is said that society expects families to produce well educated, healthy, law abiding citizens, and yet does not require parents to undergo any training for their role. Christians believe that they have a teacher, the Holy Spirit, who uses the Bible and the Church to shape and build strong families. This is something we allow God to do with us.
Nick Stinnett, in his book “Building Family Strengths” says that there are 6 qualities of strong families that were reflected in a survey done in Oklahoma. These have been verified in various other research surveys and other parts of countries. Some of these will be dealt with more fully in this preaching series. Here are the six:
- Appreciation: The top quality was a sincere appreciation of each other that built each other up psychologically. This involved giving positive strokes making people feel good about themselves. We like to be around people who make us feel good about ourselves.
- Spending Time Together: Families that were strong love spending time together, doing lots of things. They structured time together like meals and recreation, and really enjoyed it.
- Good Communication Patterns: No surprise here! These families spend time talking with each other. This included a well developed way of listing to each other. We listen so you children will speak, means that that when we speak they will listen.
- Commitment: Families that were strong had a high level of commitment to each other. They desired to promote each other’s happiness and welfare. They were willing to scrap some things off their ‘to do lists’ so that there was time and energy for each other.
- High Degree of Religious Orientation: Strong families also rated worshiping together and the practice their faith together by belonging to a church, as that which assisted them in their family strength. Awareness of a higher power made them patient with each other, more willing to forgive, able to process anger quickly, more positive, and more supportive of each other.
- Ability to Deal with Crises in a Positive Manner: Even though they did not enjoy crises, they were able to deal with them in a constructive way, finding a positive element in the crisis and bringing them closer together as a unit.
Have you found these elements in your family? Which one is your strength and which is the one you can work on?
Jesus redefines family, by saying that all those who do the will of His Father in heaven are his family. Are you a part of that family of God? Does God have a home in your heart? Today may well be that opportunity to affirm that you are a child of our Father, by offering your life to Him in a simple prayer. When you have done this, then connect in with the family of God, the Church, where you will be supported and loved into further growth.